GREEN VIEW: Forward planning can ease energy bill woes

Green View by Peter Gudde
Green View by Peter Gudde
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The weather’s changed. Schools are back. It’s now dark when I walk the dog in the morning and there’s condensation on the bathroom window. I’ll be scraping ice off the car windscreen next, writes Peter Gudde.

This means that if you haven’t had to already, the heating season will be here soon. The seasonal cycle here usually give us some expectation of being dry or damp, hot or cold. This is then reflected in the eye-watering winter energy bills.

But it’s not just the changing seasons that influence what we pay. We are not an island, geo-politically speaking. What happens in the Middle East today is reflected in the cost of energy here tomorrow. Home heating oil costs spiked in late August following the chemical attacks in Damascus. Not that Syria is a big player in world oil production, this tragic event sent crude oil prices upwards.

Buffering yourself against energy price volatility is challenging enough for nations let alone us, yet with a little forward planning you could go some way to holding the line.

Whether it’s gas, oil or electricity you could try buying through a consortium. With oil in particular, you may be able to find a community buying group near you. Another option is the Suffolk Acre Community Oil Buying Scheme. With all clubs there may be a joining fee but this should be more than offset by the pence per litre saving. You also save time not having to do the negotiations yourself.

When it comes to gas or electricity, you could use a comparison website. But, even with the promise of simpler tariffs this may still be time-consuming. If you want someone else to do the legwork, you could try a community energy switching scheme, similar to the oil buying clubs. You register and without obligation get offered a tariff following a buying auction. Whether its dual fuel or electricity only, you will be offered a tariff to meet your needs and its then up to you.

I am not promising that you will get a better deal than doing it yourself. But, if you have not switched supplier recently, this may be one way of taking control of your energy costs with a little less hassle.

For more information

For electricity and gas consumers, you can sign up to the Big Community Switch by October 15 via http://bigcommunityswitch.ichoosr.com

Up to five households can register using the same email address, so if you know somebody who doesn’t have email, you can use your email address to register them as well.

If your home is heated by oil, find out if there is a local oil buying club. If not, visit www.communitybuying.org.uk/

-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury borough and Forest Heath district councils.