Business week in brief: 30th March 2012
Should we hail shale?
by Sue Thomas
You may have seen that George Osbournes’ 2012 Budget included a "major package of tax changes" to boost oil and gas extraction in the North Sea, along with a £3bn new field allowance west of Shetland.
In the energy industry, the debate over whether to invest in renewable energy or fossil fuels is always a point of controversy, (And that’s without throwing nuclear into the mix!) so it should come as no surprise that this policy has come under scrutiny.
In the UK, we’re the biggest consumers of gas in Europe and we import some of our gas in the form of LNG (liquefied natural gas) from as far afield as Egypt, Libya, Oman, Qatar and Malaysia, despite the fact that we extract gas closer to home in the North Sea and there’s more left to extract than we might think.
As well as natural gas, there’s also shale gas to consider.
Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock that contains pockets of methane gas. Global resources of shale gas outweigh conventional gas. However, shale is hugely controversial. Producing and extracting shale gas from the rock is a challenge, and there are questions over how safe it is.
To extract shale gas, engineers use drilling, controlled explosions, chemicals and large amounts of water to release the gas from the rock. There are concerns that the process can lead to earthquakes, contamination and also that the use of water for shale gas production may affect the availability of water for other uses. Shale gas extraction has been banned in several countries.
There could be as many as 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas under the ground off the coast of Blackpool in Lancashire. Extraction could create around 5000 jobs in the area and give a whole new meaning to what we know as Blackpool rock! However, initial drilling caused two small earthquakes in the area, bringing home the potential dangers. (And yet another new meaning to Blackpool rock.)
What do you think of shale gas? Would you be happy if shale was being extracted where you live? Where do you think the UK should be focusing its budget when it comes to energy? Let us know in the comments.
How do you steal something you can't see?
This is not a blog post about magic, Houdini, David Copperfield, David Blaine or Derren Brown.
We’re talking about natural gas; the stuff you use for for heating your business, cooking or warming up your indoor employee swimming pool and jacuzzi. (That last one’s just wishful thinking...)
This blog post has nothing to do with David Copperfield. Image by Lloveras via Flickr.
New research from Ofgem has suggested that gas theft has cost customers around £140 million a year, because, yes, you’re paying for it through your domestic and business gas bills.
So how do you steal gas? Well, it could be by tampering with the gas meter or, even worse, by creating a spur onto a mains gas supply, cutting out the meter altogether. However it happens, it's illegal, not to mention very dangerous.
Yesterday Ofgem announced a new of gas theft regulatory framework in order to kick-start suppliers and network operators into tackling the issue. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering why on earth they weren't tackling it anyway. The framework will include the development and introduction of:
- new enforceable obligations for energy suppliers on gas theft;
- a cross-industry theft risk assessment service to help target investigations bu suppliers;
- an incentive scheme to give suppliers new impetus to detect theft;
- an industry code of practice on conducting theft investigations.
Ofgem has also given the green light for a series of industry measures, including:
- a 24-hour theft hotline to report suspected theft;
- a stolen meters register to identify where meters have been illegally switched;
- a forum for sharing best practice between suppliers and better coordination with other agencies.
Now I doubt this issue will be resolved overnight or will ever be completely stamped out, but it certainly is a step in the right direction and I am sure you will agree that is a good thing.
(Here’s how they tackle a electricity theft in Brazil using smart meters, if you’re interested.)
Business week in brief: 23rd March 2012
Business week in brief: 16th March 2012
Business week in brief: 8th March 2012
Don’t get rolled! Free business energy meter spreadsheet and roll over reminder service
One of the biggest pitfalls of the business energy market is the practice of ‘rolling over’ your contract. Why is it a bad thing, and how can you avoid it?
It's cute when your dog rolls over, but you don't want your business energy contract to do the same. Image by via mtsofan Flickr
If you don’t leave plenty of time to cancel your business energy contract before it’s due to end, your energy supplier can (and most probably will) roll you over on to a new one, whether you like it or not. This new contract probably won’t represent the best possible price you could get for your business, but you’ll be stuck with it until it comes to an end.
It's unfair and can leave you out of pocket, so, what can you do about it?
Well, you need to make sure you cancel your contract in good time. The notice period will usually be somewhere between 29 and 90 days before your contract is due to end. (Check your contract or your supplier’s website to check.) We’ve got two things that will help you keep on top of this:
1. Get our free business energy meter spreadsheet
Use this spreadsheet to fill in crucial details about all your energy meters and contracts - save a copy, print it out and pin it to your wall, staple it to your calendar or diary...whatever you need to do to make sure you remember to act. Get the spreadsheet
Get the spreadsheet here - just click ‘File’ and then choose whichever option you prefer from the ‘Download as’ menu, or print it out. There’s two sheets - one for gas and one for electricity.
2. Sign up for our free roll over reminder service
For more information on rollover and business energy contracts visit our partner company Business Juice.
Business week in brief: 2nd March 2012
Why we’re supporting Get Britain Trading
Today the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is launching its get Get Britain Trading campaign.
The idea behind Get Britain Trading is to raise awareness of the huge contribution that small businesses make to the UK economy, and also to lobby the government to take action to support these firms.
This year, the campaign is focusing on five specific areas:
1) Improving cashflow
2) Making tax simple and proportionate
3) Creating employment and improving skills
4) Reducing business costs
5) Creating opportunities for growth
We think the campaign is a great idea and we’re proud to champion small businesses. We can all provide specific support on two of the areas of focus this year too: improving cashflow and reducing business costs.
How? Well, many businesses don't pay much attention to their business energy contract; it's just one of those costs that you have to pay. However, you can make significant savings by switching your business electricity and gas. We save businesses with low energy consumption an average £320.70, those with medium consumption an average of £706.66 and those with high consumption an average of £1774.67.* If you don't shop around for your business energy each time your contract comes up for renewal, that's money you're needlessly throwing away, year in, year out.
We can also help you improve your cashflow, by making sure you get the right billing and payment plan, or account management options. It could be something as simple as setting up Direct Debits which give you a discount on your bill, or signing up for an online account where you can give meter reading online so you get accurate bills. We could also help you get a smart meter so you don't have to worry about meter readings or checking bills, and get you access to data about your energy consumption online which can help you be more energy-smart.
We’ll save you time too. It’s a cliche, but when you’re running a business, time really is money. And let’s face it, business energy isn't very exciting - no one wants to spend hours online or on the phone getting quotes from different suppliers. With us, all it takes is one phone call to compare prices from across the market, and we can handle the paperwork and admin too.
You can get involved in Get Britain Trading too:
- Join the campaign;
- Play a part in the discussion on LinkedIn
- Follow the FPB on Twitter and use the #BritainTrading hashtag
*Average savings for all businesses switching their gas and/or electricity with uSwitchforBusiness.com for the period January- November 2011. Low users are classed as using less than 19,000 kWh a year, medium users 19,000-49,999 kWh a year and high users 50,000 kWh a year or more.
Business week in brief: 24th February 2012
- The draft Energy Bill: a five-minute summary
- 60% increase in business energy costs as average turnover falls by 6%
- Business week in brief: 11th May 2012
- Ed Miliband and the Queen talk energy
- Interview with Steve Fitzsimons of new business energy supplier, Hudson Energy
- Business week in brief: 4th May 2012
- The see saw of corporate profit
- Business week in brief: 27th April 2012
- EDF Energy’s Business Customer Commitments: four key pledges
- Businesses buck the trend when it comes to smaller energy suppliers