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Energy

This article is designed to inform you of essential facts, prompt you to reassess certain behaviours and empower you to be part of the solution.

Why energy is key to fighting the climate and ecological emergency

Energy production – including the extraction and processing of coal, oil and gas – accounts for 14.5% of current global emissions. But it’s not just energy production that is accelerating the climate and ecological crisis.

Building and maintaining our homes and offices accounts for another 18.2% of global carbon emissions while transport accounts for 14.5%. And these figures don’t include the energy usage across industry such as mineral extraction, agriculture, utility services and manufacturing.

Everything uses energy and therefore how we produce, buy and use energy is a critical component in halting greenhouse gas emissions. We all have a role to play and can make that change daily, cheaply and easily.

Where do you get your energy from?

Energy is produced through many techniques, roughly broken down into three types: renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro etc.), fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and nuclear (which doesn’t emit CO2 but is not considered a renewable, safe or sustainable source in its current form).

Some other sources such as biomass fall between renewables and “solid fuels” as they do use a renewable source but emit CO2.

The important thing to remember is, where do you get your energy from? You might make it yourself with solar panels and heat pumps (though this can be expensive and impractical for most people) but the chances are you get it from an energy provider.

Many energy providers have renewable only energy tariffs. They are often as cheap if not cheaper than fossil fuel tariffs. This reflects the market where renewables such as wind power are consistently cheaper than coal or natural gas. So, switching to a green energy provider could save you money.

TAKE ACTION
It’s simple. Have you switched to a renewable energy tariff? Not only are you playing your part but you could be saving yourself money every month.
If you have the space and money, why not explore whether you can generate your own energy through solar panels, heat pumps or even wind turbines? If you produce excess money, you could actually make money by selling it back to the grid.

Using energy

Being on a renewable energy tariff is a multiplier when it comes to using energy. Suddenly, all sorts of carbon heavy areas of your life are now close to carbon neutral. If your energy supply is zero carbon, then other activities in and around the home can be too. This includes having an electric car, switching out your gas boiler and changing to an electric cooker. Or it could include the everyday things such as charging your phone and using electronics.

Now your electricity is carbon free, you have options and can take it as far as you like. Try investing in a selection of rechargeable batteries. You recharge them through a renewable source and then you never have to buy disposable batteries again.

This being said, even if you get all your energy from renewable sources, how we use our energy is important. Everyone should be considerate in how they use their energy and how to reduce their consumption. Not only will this save you money, but it helps reduce the electrical burden.

Conserving energy

In the UK, homes are currently responsible for nearly 20% of the country’s total emissions. Without properly insulating and sustainably heating them, it will be impossible for the UK government to meet its climate change targets. The UK has the least energy-efficient housing stock in Western Europe, which means high heating costs for low-income households. This contributes to poor health, costing the NHS up to £2 billion a year in England. Over the past five years, almost 58,000 people across the UK have died from conditions attributable to cold homes.

First and foremost, the government – as indeed all governments – must apply a nationwide energy efficiency retrofitting programme. In the meantime, there are a number of things you can do in your home to reduce your impact on the planet while also reducing your energy and heating bills.

Is your home insulated? Have you worked out the cost benefit of insulating your home? You may find simple solutions and quick fixes at your fingertips which cost very little. These changes will reduce the amount of energy you require and could save you money. Start by looking at these recommendations and see what works for you.

TAKE ACTION
Insulate your home. Loft installation is cheap and simple to install. Fit it to a depth of 270mm and it will pay for itself in a year. Or get a quote for cavity wall insulation. It can be both internal insulation or external cladding. Have you heard of insulating wallpaper? It’s not as effective, but it’s much cheaper.
Could you install low carbon heating? A heat pump can reduce your emissions by 60% by extracting heat from the air outside and heating the water in your radiators.
Use glazed windows and doors. Not only do they reduce noise, but triple glazed windows make your house warmer and reduce energy bills.
Draught proof your home. Gaps in doors and windows lose heat and make your house chilly. You then spend a fortune on energy bills. Draught proofing is simple, cheap and easy to do yourself.
Keep heating below 18°C. Just reducing your heating by a few degrees saves money, energy and carbon emissions. In fact, you save around 10% energy per 1°C.
Get a smart reader. Smart energy meters can be helpful in encouraging good habits as they provide live info on how much energy you’re using. For example, you’ll notice a difference in how much water and energy you’re using by taking shorter showers (5 minutes or less).
Replace old appliances. We don’t recommend buying things for the sake of it. But if an old appliance or boiler is coming to the end of its life, or simply using too much energy, you could save money by investing in a A rated and above energy efficient replacement. 

Divest from fossil fuels

You probably hadn’t considered it, but who you bank with can dramatically affect your carbon footprint. Over 30 global banks have invested over £2 trillion in the fossil fuel industry since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016. The chances are, you are banking with them.

Fossil fuel companies make energy by burning coal, gas and oil. It is an outdated, dirty and pointless process which is causing unprecedented destruction to the planet – and your bank could be funding them.

It is easy, secure and incredibly powerful to move your money away from organisations that are accelerating the climate and ecological emergency.

These banks invest in fossil fuels and are knowingly accelerating the climate emergency:
JPMorgan ChaseWells FargoCiti
MUFGGoldman SachsBank of America
BarclaysBank of ChinaRBC
TDBank of MontrealSoceiti Generale
MizuhoCredit SuisseChina Construction Bank
ScotiabankICBCCredit Agricole
Morgan StanleyDeutsche BankING
Agriculture Bank of ChinaSMBC GroupHSBC
BNP ParibasCIBCUBS
BPCE/NatixisStandard CharteredBBVA
SantanderUniCreditIntesa Sanpaolo
RBSCommerzbankFirst Direct
M&S BankHalifaxBank of Scotland
NatwestUlster Bank

Demand government investment

The UK – to give one example – has spent nearly £4 billion of public funds on supporting polluting fossil fuel projects in the global south since signing Paris Accord. These investments are made in the interests of private profit rather than the public interest, enforcing fossil fuel dependency on global south economies and scuppering attempts to tackle fuel poverty with a transition to renewable energy. This is also public money that could be invested in health, education and the multitude of solutions available to fight the climate and ecological emergency.

This is the same government that in 2019 declared a Climate Emergency and is positioning itself as world leader in fighting the climate crisis ahead of COP26 which it is hosting in 2021.

Governments work for their citizens and will change their practices and policies when they feel enough of their citizens demand it. It is critically important that people contact their government representatives on a regular basis – no matter how disenfranchised they feel – to demand a better future for them and their children. Find out where your taxes are going, if they are working against the Paris Agreement, call them out – shout to the rooftops about it and demand change. 

Telling others

If you make a change to the way you buy, use and conserve energy, then you will probably have made a smart choice, are saving money, and feel good about your actions.

Tell your friends, family and colleagues about the actions you are taking to move away from dirty, damaging and polluting fossil fuels. Progress should not only be celebrated, but normalised. This occurs when we talk about it openly and in every day conversation until more people make that necessary change. And besides, who wouldn’t want their loved ones to save money while they’re saving the Earth?

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