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Current Affairs

March 17, 2014

Do you see what I did there with the ingenious pun in the post title?
This week, for the B&Q Great Energy Race, it’s all about Electricity!

Before we start, I need to make it clear that I am not an environmental scientist, I struggled with GCSE physics, and a lot of this makes my head hurt (and zone out). So forgive me if my figures aren’t spot on and if I haven’t backed them up with an appendix of up to date references. ASLO, my apologies, as this is potentially quite a dull post, but if you can stick with it to the end, I hope my conclusions will make it worth it!
When I started asking Twitter doing some research about energy saving, I ended up getting, quite frankly out of my depth, in a conversation about electricity use with a very knowledgable lady, Mrs M.
She asked me to make sure that if I was blogging about domestic energy use and reduction, that I distinguish between electricity and heating.
So I will. But I am a little confused. (I did say I was out of my depth).

Electricity is obviously for Things That Plug Into the Wall. I am ok with that. As a definition, I am sure it is hugely flawed, but for me, that is how I see it.
Heating, I guess, depends on what sort of heating system you have. Ours is Gas. So I am assuming that all the energy for heating our radiators comes from gas. But is the same true for the hot water? And what if you have an immersion heater? Or an electric shower? And what if your electricity, actually comes from gas..?
Like I said, confusing.

Anyway, I have been doing a little bit of research, and to avoid this becoming an even duller, science-y, blog post, here is a little précis of my findings:

  • 75% of our domestic electricity use is spent on lighting and appliances
  • Sources of energy for electricity in the UK are gas (48%), coal (28%), nuclear (16%), renewables (4%), other (4%)
  • In the production of electricity from the source, energy is lost, and the amount that is lost depends on the type of fuel
  • There are losses at every stage of production-mining it. transporting it, turning it into electricity and then getting that electricity into our homes
  • Producing electricity from:
    gas-over half of the energy that was originally in the gas is lost
    coal-66% is lost
    nuclear-65%
    renewables-less than 1% (HURRAY for renewables!)
  • Fossil fuels and nuclear all need inputs of energy to extract the energy from them (I know, that makes my head hurt too)-as a rough idea, to produce 50 units of electricity, you need an input of 133 units of energy
  • If you then look at the efficiency of the appliances that are using the electricity, it can mean that for every unit of electricity you use, it has actually  ‘cost’ 25 units of electricity along the way (I did that in bold. It is Important!)

This infographic from Friends of the Earth (that I was directed here to in The Guardian) explains it all a bit better than me…

Up in smoke

Up in smoke: How is electricity roduced in the UK? As graphic by Information is Beautiful using data from DUKES 2011 and the Energy Saving Trust.

If any of you are still reading, my basic take home message from all of that, is that the savings we make in our electricity usage at home, have far-reaching consequences.
So my seemingly fairly paltry energy savings from using the slow cooker last week  (2.87kWhrs, since you ask!), actually means that in using 2.87 units less of energy, it could mean that I have saved 71.75 (2.87×25) units of energy from being produced!
That’s actually pretty cool. And makes me look far more closely about any changes that we can make to reduce our electricity usage, even if only by a teeny tiny amount.
Because it all adds up. And if we can use less electricity in our house, then the savings further up the line, are even greater.
The long and short of it is:
-we know that saving electricity can save us money
– we all know that reducing energy use in the home is generally ‘good for the environment’
– we now also know, any savings we make, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are actually having a far bigger knock on effect.

Sooooooo, let’s find out how we do it!

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  • Reply Into The Home Straight… | My Make Do and Mend Year March 31, 2014 at 7:02 am

    […] to quite neatly ‘theme’ each of the last three weeks (energy saving in the kitchen, electricity saving more widely in the home, and saving energy with regards to heating) this last week may well end up being something of a […]

  • Reply Meg and Gosia March 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Grand post, Jen!

    • Reply Jen March 20, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Thankyou! I felt under pressure… 😉

  • Reply KnitNell March 17, 2014 at 10:18 am

    That was great – I understood it – which means that everyone else will! I really like the FofE’s graph.

    • Reply Jen March 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      Hurray! What a relief 🙂 Thanks for the feedback.

  • Reply Nina March 17, 2014 at 7:36 am

    A very strong case then for buying your electricity from a ‘green’ provider, that produces 100% of it’s energy from green sources! Thank you for this, it was very interesting!

    • Reply Jen March 17, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      I hadn’t thought of it like that Nina, but you are absolutely right. We are with ecotricity, but am really interested in the great things that Good Energy are doing too.

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