Energy prices on the rise: here's how you can cut costs

Added on 17th Oct 2011 by Sholeh Johnston

After yet another round of price hikes from the six major energy providers in the UK, the average householder is paying about £300 more than this time last year (mainly due to a steep rise in gas prices). The Prime Minister and energy secretary Chris Huhne have called an energy summit with the six major suppliers today in London to ensure that consumers are protected as much as possible from further price rises and hidden charges, following which they'll be advising people on how they can start to reduce their energy bills this winter.

Saving energy at home

Some initial tips for individuals (summed up neatly here in the Guardian) include surfing the different offers being made by the "Big Six" (who provide 99% of the UK's energy) and seeing how you can cut your bills by signing up to an online tariff and paying by direct debit. Homeowners can also look into the government's Warm Front scheme offering help with installing insulation and heating improvements.

In the short term, it's all about efficiencies. Our top tips for saving energy at home are:

  1. Insulate your home - even curtain lining makes a difference
  2. Turn the heating down and put on a jumper and thick socks
  3. Enjoy short showers rather than long baths
  4. Unplug electronic devices and switch off lights
  5. Use low energy light bulbs
  6. Launder at 30 degrees

We also advise taking a break from the Big Six and checking out Good Energy, Ecotricity and Green Energy - great companies that are really investing in renewable energy.

In the long term, it's likely that we'll only continue to see prices rising for fossil fuel energy. Individuals and businesses wanting to safeguard their energy supply should look into renewable energy tariffs and opportunities for private or community-owned off-grid energy initiatives.

Good places to start for alternative energy sources are Feed in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Saving energy in the workplace

Based on our work over the last couple of years, we've shown that energy efficiencies alone could save businesses in the music, theatre and visual arts sectors around £35million over the next three years. How is that possible? Well, if you're building based switching over to energy-saving and/or LED light fittings throughout public areas, backstage and external fittings, and looking into LED stage lighting makes a significant difference. The National Theatre saved 70% on its external lighting by replacing discharge lamps with LEDs, and the Royal & Derngate Northampton is saving £32,000 per year after switching to LEDs throughout the venue.

Looking at the efficiency of heating and cooling systems, and installing water saving initiatives can save thousands of pounds: Wembley Stadium saved £600,000 mainly due to heating and cooling system improvements and the Theatre Royal Plymouth saved £10,000 through updates and improvements to its water system.

But people also play a crucial role in workplace efficiencies. Switching off lighting, equipment, heating and cooling when not in use, and unplugging phone chargers and other appliances when not in use are key actions. Motivating and incentivising staff to do get involved is important, and a sense of humour helps - many organisations have tried "green weeks" of activities and initiatives to engage people with environmental sustainability, such as Wembley Stadium's "Energy Referee" who deals out red cards to those who don't switch off monitors at the end of the day, and The Sage Gateshead's "No Lift Day" and "Leave the Car at Home" initiatives.

Keeping track of your energy use is key to knowing how you're getting on. Tools like SMEasure are ideal for buildings - it tracks energy use over time based on weekly meter readings. Likewise, the IG Tools gives venues, festivals, offices and tours a snapshot of their energy (as well as water, waste and travel) emissions.

For more tips on both people power and investment choices that could bring down the energy costs of running your business, see our Green Your Building Practical Guide, case studies and Green Guides for creative industries.