JOHN GRIFF COLUMN: Giving more thought to living costs might actually help planet

Could there be an unexpected dividend arising from the recent cost of living increases? writes John Griff.

By Graham Tebbutt (Edited by)
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 6:30 am
Combining a hot water bottle with making a hot, bedtime drink may work out cheaper than using an electric blanket
Combining a hot water bottle with making a hot, bedtime drink may work out cheaper than using an electric blanket

For many (and particularly so with colder climes set to be with us for a few more weeks yet) the greatest single increase is that of energy pricing.

The government’s price cap is set to change from April 1, limiting how much the energy companies can charge for their services.

The two key elements of both gas and electricity charging – the number of kilowatt hours of energy used and the daily standing charge for providing those services – are all set to rise (no surprises there) but in markedly different ways.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In the case of electricity, the maximum amount of the daily standing charge will be allowed to almost double if the energy companies so wish. With gas it’s different... it’s the kWh price itself that will be allowed to rise by up to 75%.

Without a long narrative on the whys and the wherefores, the bottom line is that we are all in for a substantial rise in our basic costs of living, albeit that there are a number of discounts and mechanisms being put forward by the government, some NGOs and the energy companies themselves in order to mitigate the degree of the changes for the vulnerable.

Insulating our homes against heat loss became a crusade for a past Westminster administration. Then, I applied for an energy survey and assistance with the insulation in my home and was promptly told there was nothing that could be done, so that was that.

But I wonder if there might not be some behaviours we could adopt ourselves which might make a difference. And behaviours which might have a greater impact than a merely financial one.

The obvious one is to turn the thermostat down by a degree or two, if you’re able to do it without endangering your health. It makes a difference.

Globally, our ambient outdoor temperatures have been rising as a result of the planet heating up under climate change.

I recall winters here with temperatures substantially below zero. We don’t tend to get those now.

Are you able to reduce the time by which your heating is on by half an hour or so, maybe once you’ve gone to bed?

We’ve had some hilarity at home recently about using a hot water bottle rather than an electric blanket. How about heating a kettle sufficient for a bottle AND a final hot drink before bedtime, if that is your routine?

Recently I’ve got quite good at wearing thicker sweaters and layering T-shirts during daytime too.

For me, awareness is key. For years, my smart meter monitor lay in a drawer, unused.

Now, it sits glaring at me in the kitchen and I’ve become far more attentive to our consumption rates of both gas and electricity during the day.

My energy costs rose dramatically when the pandemic began, simply because I spent (and still spend) the majority of my time working from home.

Now, I have a much better idea of the cost of what I’m using than before.

Smart meters are free from your energy company, but roughly only half of UK homes have one.

Try not to obsess on that monitor though... it’s not easy!

And that unexpected dividend? If we can learn to reduce our consumption, bit by bit the planet will benefit from us reducing the demands we place upon it and driving climate change.

We’ve heard the arguments for years. Maybe it’ll be by being priced into changing our ways that we end up being a little kinder to our surroundings.