Thursday 23 March 2017

Green taxes on your electric bills - the view from Stoke

The Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change has this week calculated how much domestic energy bill-payers are paying for green subsidies, in terms of the green 'stealth taxes' being added by energy companies to our quarterly bills...

"In 2016, on average, nine per cent of bills for ‘dual fuel’ households – or £105 – was down to green policies."

But all-electric flats are where the poorest urban working-age people tend to be. The Committee's report admits that such all-electric households are being hit the hardest. For...

"Electrically-heated homes ... low-carbon policies make up a higher proportion of their bills: 18% rather than 9%. This is set to increase to 2030".

It's true that this 18% increase has been offset by energy-efficiency savings, from things like better insulated homes and more efficient washing machines / fridges / TVs. But the recent British government paper Energy Consumption in the UK (2014): Domestic energy consumption in the UK between 1970 and 2013 puts that offset at only at about 9%...

"At a per household level, [average] energy consumption has fallen by 9 per cent since 2000."

So, broadly... all-electric households could have seen a roughly 9% cut in bills, mostly due to better insulation and smarter appliances. But we didn't see that, because the energy companies swiped the savings to pay for green energy subsidies, via our bills — and thought that we wouldn't notice.

Around 16% of households in the city of Stoke-on-Trent are in 'fuel poverty', according to the most recent Energy Consumption in the UK government report on the topic. Outside of the council's 'council estate and bungalows' sector, many households will be electric-only. 25% of all UK flats are electric-only, for instance. The majority of new-build flats are electric-only — such as the many student flats now being built in Stoke town.

Now a Parliamentary Committee has found that in an all-electric home you're still currently around 9% worse off per year (calculation: 18% green stealth-tax, minus 9% home efficiency savings = 9% extra on the bill). That comes on top of the huge 120%+ energy price rises electric households suffered in the 2000s. The Committee admit that the problem is set to get worse for those households by 2030, if the green stealth-taxes on our bills are allowed to continue.

Perhaps, when the new "smart meters" go into homes, we need a new bright-green display slot which will reveal: "Your bill has been increased by £XXX, to pay a subsidy to farmers for useless wind-farms and bio-fuel schemes."

What about local industry, such as Stoke's ceramic companies? Well, the same Committee on Climate Change states that the energy-intensive industrial sectors (such as ceramics making) are overall set to see a "5.9%" rise in energy bills due to the green 'direct-to-the-bill' stealth-taxes, by 2030. That's a bit more hopeful, since such a rise may well be balanced out by efficiency savings and new workflows. But it seems to me that a ceramic factory could have instead enjoyed a big cut in energy costs, if the green energy subsidies were scrapped and their factory's efficiency and modernisation savings went ahead anyway.

Sunday 12 March 2017

Blank pots

There was an interesting sort-of-interview in the Sunday papers, with successful local pottery maker Emma Bridgewater: "UK skills crisis being fuelled by university courses geared towards overseas students". Emma was talking about her children's experience in the London art schools, and I must say that it's the first I've heard of such a linkage.

But more interestingly and most-likely locally, she also commented that in universities she personally finds an...

"absolute blankness and a sense that what I'm doing is so irrelevant."

I imagine that part of that will be a snobbishness arising from the commercial design of her ranges, which won't sit well with the 'oh, we're contemporary fine arts really' stance commonly encountered in contemporary crafts in higher education. Anyone who has pondered what looks like lumps of industrial slag at Stoke's BCB festival will know what I mean. But perhaps part of such a response may even be political 'snark' from leftist lecturers — Guardian-readers of the sort who instinctively bristle with horror at the sight of a British flag and a bit of cheery optimism.