We're all encouraged to minimise our energy footprint and we're certainly aware of the escalating growth in its cost. I've invested in low energy light bulbs and routinely ensure that all my devices and other equipment are turned off at night rather than leaving them on standby. It's what we've been told to do!

More Eco-Friendly

In fact, energy ratings of white goods allude to energy efficiency, which has improved over the last decade or so. Likewise, a new range of consumer electronic products claims to be more power efficient – even the new Intel Skylake processor is eco-friendlier than its predecessors. There are ‘apps’ too that allow you to control your home from afar, enabling you to make decisions about your heating, lighting and the security of your premises, all of which is neatly placed under the Internet of Things (IoT) umbrella (honestly that’s another article). Nonetheless, as consumers, it’s unavoidable that we need to be more conscious of our energy consumption and the energy footprint we leave.

My energy bill regularly reflects a monthly indulgence in energy usage and, similarly, it can also reflect my greenish behaviour when my bill is not so inflated. Rising energy prices have affected both residential and business consumers across the UK and, across the globe, for that matter. More so, concerns about the cost of our energy are compounded by a reality that such resources are limited – we simply don’t have an endless supply. Yes, of course, we have energy alternatives such as wind and solar, for example, but some say the often unsightly technology may taint the landscape and tarnish the look of our buildings.

What’s the Green Deal?

For those who are a little lax in how they use energy within their home or business, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) – a British government body responsible for reforming the energy sector – is here to help! So the DECC has spent some time authoring a whitepaper or two, which discusses how it wishes to reform the energy sector by offering numerous incentives for consumers and businesses across the United Kingdom – these incentives and various schemes have been dubbed the ‘Green Deal’.

According to the DECC it plans to improve the energy efficiency for existing housing, commercial and industry building stock and, of course, new buildings will automatically benefit. This means that homes and businesses alike can tap into the Green Deal and receive guidance as well as financial assistance to improve roof insulation, windows, cavity wall installation, solar power and so on for the home or business.

Introducing the ‘Smart Meter’

The efficiency plan also extends to smart meters which, in turn, according to the DECC will empower consumers. Furthermore, in its ambitious project, the DECC wants to achieve complete rollout of smart meters for residential, commercial and industry across the UK by 2020. The DECC suggests that having access to real-time data will enable the consumer to readily observe their energy consumption as it happens, in turn making them more conscious about its use. For example, when a consumer switches on their dishwasher or washing machine, they will learn that their equipment, through an In-Home Display (IHD) has consumed so many kilowatts per hour and has cost them a certain amount.

With this in mind, consumers are encouraged to perhaps defer use to a more cost-effective tariff. Similarly, energy suppliers would like you to spread your use more efficiently across the day; that is, to negate the peaks or surges in consumption across the UK – you know, like when an advert comes on during Coronation Street, X-Factor or a rugby match and everyone rushes to the kitchen to switch on their kettle; although I’m not entirely sure how they can ultimately put a stop to this typical behaviour.

What’s In It for Me?

So, the ‘Big Six’ in the UK are obliged to install these smart meters across the land, as well as provide consumers with an IHD. Naturally, energy suppliers will also have access to your real-time data, with a view to providing you with more accurate billing. Does that mean these suppliers have got it wrong for so long? It makes me wonder!

Anyway, putting cynicism aside, data about how you use your equipment in the home will additionally be shared with energy suppliers and perhaps they can advise you how to optimise energy use and, in turn, reduce your bill. I suppose the premise of reducing the cost of your energy and ultimately reducing its footprint will encourage all of us to be mindful about the resources we regularly consume.

The Long-Term Greener View

The UK is duty bound, according to the European Union, to reduce its overall energy consumption by 20% or face hefty penalties. Likewise, if the ‘Big Six’ fail to educate the consumer and, as such, haven’t reduced their overall energy consumption, then energy suppliers face penalties imposed by the government. Incidentally, this legislation is not just limited to the UK, as similar schemes are in operation across Europe, the US and Asia. So it’s a united motivation that’s been created with a longer-term green view in mind.

We all have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of our planet or risk the consequences for future generations if we don’t ensure its longevity.

Until Next Time …

In next month’s feature, I want to round up the year and look back at the highs and lows that have kept us all entertained. I think 2015 should get a speeding ticket because it’s gone too fast! It really is quite amazing how the year has flown by so quickly and I’m afraid that I might blink too frequently and miss 2016.

So, this is where a time-travelling Dr. G signs off.