Richard Reeves
B u s i n e s s   S k i l l s   f o r   S c i e n c e   a n d   T e c h n o l o g y


My Green Credentials

A. I bought shares in Westmill Wind Farm
In December 05 I sent for enough shares to make enough windmill to generate all the electricity that my house uses.

Westmill wind farm is to be build near Oxford, and is the first wind farm in the UK to be funded by public offer of shares. It is in the form of a cooperative. I got the prospectus, emailed some questions to the prospective MD, got satisfactory answers, and sent in my cheque.
How many shares to buy?
By looking at my electricity bills I found that my house used 5777 kWh in the previous 12 months. The wind farm is projected to generate 12 million kWh annually, so to make all my electricity I needed to buy a fraction 5777/12,000,000 of it, which is one 2077th of it. The share capital needed by the cooperative was £3.75m, so I needed to subscribe for one 2077th of that, which was £1805.

Why not buy more?
I then thought that for the public good I could afford to buy one extra chunk of shares on behalf of someone who is pro-green but cannot afford to invest themselves. I then also thought I would buy another extra chunk for someone who is pro-nuclear and so not likely to invest in windpower themselves. Thus I sent off a cheque for £5000: roughly three times £1805. Note that I am not all that altruistic, because I expect reasonable dividends in due course.
What happened then?
The share offer was over subscribed, and I got only £2,000 worth of shares, plus a cheque back for £3,000. This means I am looking for another windfarm to invest my residue in. The news from the company then became slightly bad. It had taken them 13 years to get planning permission, and by the time this was granted and they had raised the money, they were no longer able to buy the particular turbines intended. Sudden demand from the USA had cleaned out the turbines market, and my company was stuck for quite a time. Around March 2007 their original supplier agreed to supply turbines after all, but more money was needed. A meeting of shareholders agreed overwhelmingly to subscribe the extra money, and I bought another £1000 worth of shares. I intend to continue to be a loyal shareholder through future ups and downs.
So will the dividends cover my electricity bills in future?
Probably not. About half of what you pay for electricity goes to generating costs, and about half to distribution - getting it to your house and collecting the money from you. I have paid enough to avoid fossil fuels or Uranium being used on my account, but not enough to cover the distribution element.
All done then?
All done bar waiting for the big switch on, maybe by the end of 2007. Meantime I have got my share certificate framed, to go in the hall. No point having it if you don't flaunt it.

B. I signed up to buy my electricity from Good Energy

The wind farm will sell its electricity to the grid, not direct to me. I needed to make sure I got the good stuff. Good Energy is an electricity distributor that promises convincingly to buy all its electricity from renewable sources. Their electricity does cost a little more, and you are expected to buy from them for the sake of the planet.
So how much more?
My year's electricity consumption to April 2006 was 4,586 kWh. (Lower than above - see next topic). My old supplier was Powergen and at the prices prevailing in May 2006 they would charge £449 including VAT. At Good Energy's price it would cost £536 including VAT: an extra £87 a year, or 19.46%, which I am happy to pay to help the planet.
Why this particular green supplier?
I had previously looked into paying extra to a supplier (I forget which) to have electricity only from renewable sources, but on their website I could not find a clear statement of just what the deal was. They already bought some but not much of their electricity from renewable suppliers, so how would I know that my extra money prompted them to buy more renewable electricity? With Good Energy the deal is clear. They only buy green electricity and nothing else. There is a website Fuel Mix of UK Domestic Electricity Suppliers where you can find out where your supplier gets its electricity from.
Was it easy to change?
Yes. A very clear website and a very simple procedure. It took about a week of elapsed time.

Has it worked out well?
Yes. No problems at all.

C. I am working to halve the energy use of my house
I intend to halve both my gas consumption and my electricity consumption.

Reference data
In the year to 13 October 2005 we used 5474 kWh of electricity.
In the year to 17 October 2005 we used 29,875 kWh of gas.

Ours is a 1930 detached 4 bedroom house with a 1980 extension. Two of us live here.

I am conducting research on our energy use before we undertake the building projects we have been planning for some time. Not new to the world research you understand, but new to me stuff.

C(i) I installed CFLs
This was easy. Compact Fluorescent Lamps use only a quarter of the electricity that ordinary light bulbs use. They also save money. The ones on sale a few years ago were slow to switch on and brighten up, and I found that even now some are much better than others.

How is it going so far?
Like most research projects you find out a lot before you are ready to design hardware or issue reports. I am about two thirds of the way through getting a good understanding of domestic energy use, but only just started on taking practical steps.
More will be reported later as I make progress.

23rd May 2007