Throughout 2014 there has been almost constant speculation about the UK's power network, its capacity, and whether it's going to be enough to carry us through into the next generation. Keeping the lights on and keeping our homes nice and warm is obviously a key priority, but it's something that's becoming increasingly difficult as tensions rise between the West and Russia - one of our main oil and gas suppliers. What's the answer?
It's not easy, that's for sure. Not only must we avoid the country ending up as dependent as the European mainland on Russian gas, we must also navigate the challenges of climate change, consumer dissatisfaction at rising bills, and changing government policies on nuclear and other sources. Not to mention the inclusion of renewable energy into the mix - making sure it gets as much support as possible (or sensible). Last year only 6% of the UK's energy sources came from renewables, which is still hugely behind gas, and even coal, figures.
How much does it take to keep the lights on?
To keep our homes warm and our lights on, we need to generate around 330 terawatts of energy each year. How we generate that energy is the thing that's being disputed, but there's also the option of bringing that figure down - considerably. At home, many of us have the option to upgrade to a more sensible method of home heating for example. We can make changes like investing in energy saving light bulbs or energy efficient appliances. Most notably, perhaps is our central heating, and the stuck-in-the-mud attitude the UK still has to its clunky gas boilers. Of course, it's not as easy as all that to change, but those who are in a fortunate enough position - due to moving house or finding themselves able to invest - should really consider all of the options before committing.
Is there a cheaper option that gas when it comes to heating?
They that 'cheap' is a dirty word, and it can be misleading when it's used in a sales pitch, especially if it's used incorrectly. While it isn't guaranteed that investing in say, electric heating panels or designer electric radiators, will absolutely save you money, they certainly give you the ability to. It's about how we use the tools we have, and how we shape our lifestyles. A gas central heating system for example, offers the user no real control. Even they wanted to use the system more economically, it doesn't really allow for much customisation, save for a central thermostat with questionable accuracy. Replacing this with electronic heating system, one that's been carefully developed and refined over years, can solve that. If you're the kind of person who wants to get anal about their energy usage, and create an entirely bespoke heating program for each room in their home, electric radiators will now let you do it. It's something that far more people need to be aware of when considering their future.
So, even if I do my part, might we still face a blackout?
Greenpeace recently had some relatively good news on that front. They said that the big six energy suppliers should, for now at least, be able to keep the power on. A spokesperson said, "I think it is implausible that the lights are going to go out anytime soon,” says Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK. “What happens over the next decade is that the ‘supply margin’ gets tighter as coal plants are retired, [though] many nuclear plants will limp on.”
So, what's the supply margin? Essentially, it's the UK's 'energy safety gap' - how much energy we can generate or access (including imported energy from overseas grids, versus our peak usage. If the gap (or margin) is large, then we're fine in the event of an energy surge. But the smaller that margin gets, the more likely a blackout will become if we experience a spike in demand - something which isn't that unlikely given all the new technology we're constantly buying. Food for thought, certainly.
Eco Stores Direct are here to bring you the very latest in energy news, views and opinions from across the UK. They are also suppliers of energy efficient electric heating solutions and are constantly assessing the market for the best products and the latest ground-breaking technology which they think will make a real difference to their customer's homes. Eco Stores Direct are devoted to helping you reduce your carbon footprint and bring down your energy bills and they work hard to raise awareness of energy efficient products that can make all the difference. For more information on their range of designer electric radiators or energy efficient electric panel heaters, call one of their friendly team today on 0330 300 4444 for a free assessment.