The Cost of Going Green

According to recent press reports, ‘going green’ is set to cost the average household up to £110 within the next decade. This cost will go towards developing new sources of renewable energy such as nuclear power, hydro electricity and wind turbines. At the same time, the government believes that the average electricity and gas bill, combined, will exceed £1160 within the same time period.

The spectre of these costs, particularly within the backdrop of a struggling economy, has caused much consternation. However ‘green’ groups have explained that the rising cost of utility bills is likely to be primarily down to increasing gas costs, rather than new ‘green’ measures.

The same groups have also pointed to the benefits of the increased ‘green’ costs. These will be split into a societal and individual level of benefit. Broad societal benefit will include schemes to increase renewable energy and thus reduce carbon emissions. Individual benefits will include a more energy efficient home and new ‘smart’ devices to prevent household waste.

For example, some utility providers are now providing grants and help towards loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. These may require some initial expenditure, but the long term benefits far outweigh the cost, with a well insulated home staying warmer and requiring less heating.

Other customers are looking at more substantial changes such as solar panels and electric cars. Solar panels have started to spring up on properties all over the UK and they pay for themselves within 20 years or so, ideal for families either wishing to stay in one place for a time, or add potential value to their home. The outlay is eventually recouped by generating solar energy and requiring less electricity from a utility company. Additionally, excess electricity can be sold back to the grid to generate income for the homeowner.

With electric cars, again, these can be more expensive than traditional diesel or petrol models as the technology is newer and is still being refined. Hybrid cars are becoming ever more popular and can significantly reduce fuel bills. Even petrol and diesel cars are now designed for more economic driving with displays that emphasise MPG fuel consumption clearly in order to help adjust driving habits.

The real trick with going green is to look at the long term benefits of becoming more energy efficient and reducing your carbon footprint. Once you begin to think differently, it’s easy to identify a range of low or no cost measures to incorporate the ethos into your lifestyle. These may include recycling more, walking rather than driving, booking cheap advance tickets on public transport, rather than driving and perhaps car sharing. You can even save money with lifestyle adjustments, such as swapping a gym membership for cycling or running and by using and eating all the food you buy rather than throwing it away. Good meal planning alone can save a great deal of money for the average family.

There are now green financial products such as ‘green’ credit cards which are offered by certain eco-conscious providers and socially responsible financial institutions. These credit cards work in the same way as other credit cards but the bank may support social projects and invest some of the proceeds in corporate responsibility projects. Utility companies offer ‘green’ tariffs on the same premise in that a proportion of energy is from renewable sources.

Don’t be afraid to ask your credit card provider, bank and utility company how they are managing their carbon reduction and corporate responsibility and make your purchase decisions accordingly. Your power as a consumer is potentially very strong indeed.

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