What “Growth” Really Means to Us and Energy Savings

Well – what a month! Not a credit to our political leaders, nor to our national reputation.

Truss and his supporters have come and gone, mostly over the question of what his government and his economists call “growth,” and how that was to be achieved by a plan that utterly failed to impact the reality of international economy.

So what is this “growth” and we are told we are all looking for so much?

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are several ways to measure GDP, the most common being the GDP from expenditure approach – GDP(E) measures total expenditure (money spent) for all the finished goods and services produced (consumed) in the economy.

As we have now seen, and suffered over the past month or so, GDP growth can also be boosted by increased spending by us and the government, using borrowed funds, at the expense of the next generation. (ie an increase in mortgage payments).

Should our leaders advocate living within our means, not mortgaging the future?

There are many things that increase the GDP without improving the situation of the country.

War is an example of this (a lot of money is spent, so the GDP increases).

Increased crime, poor health, traffic congestion, pollution of our air and our rivers lead to additional expenses and therefore increase “growth”.

A “growth” that ecologists would describe as planetary ruin.

It’s just not possible to have infinite consumption of resources, “growth” on a finite planet – it’s a recipe for the catastrophe we are experiencing with “climate change” and accelerating loss of biodiversity.

I suspect that many of us would consider that our overall happiness and wealth could best be measured by a sense of security, good health, well-being, a future for our children in an environmentally sustainable, pollution-free world.

Interestingly, when the Truss government announced its ‘growth’ blueprint, the NHS and climate change were not mentioned.

What played was the fact that Truss would seek to increase fossil fuel production in the UK by removing restrictions on fracking and drilling in the North Sea.

This underscores the fundamental fact that GDP really only measures our gross fossil fuel/energy consumption – including that embodied in our imports.

Reduce your household expenses on energy (domestic and transportation) and food by reducing or eliminating food waste – Both will lead to lower expenses.

So Truss didn’t want a “nanny state” that would encourage and support you in this because it would reduce “growth” and GDP?

Perhaps pursuing what could be called in economic terms “degrowth” – reducing our overall energy consumption has its benefits both for our finances and for the environment?

Fuel and fossil energy – where do we use it?

Commercial/industrial, transport, household and food.

We will come back to transport and food another time.

Over the last month or so there has been a lot of advice on how to save energy. Some practical, others less so.

Install air source heat pumps, install solar panels, insulate cavity walls and attics, buy an electric vehicle – all worthwhile IF you have a thousand or ten to spare!

No excuses for reaffirming the no, or low cost, actions we can all check out now that winter is setting in.

These actions apply to both businesses and individuals.

After being in offices/stores around 24°C, you might find this tip helpful for establishing a baseline.

Minimum workplace temperature. According to the HSE Minimum Workplace Temperature Approved Code of Practice suggests that the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.

If the work involves rigorous physical exertion, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.

These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances!

Heater.

Can be commercially high and is THE largest component of household energy consumption.

• Businesses – keep exterior doors closed. Put up a big welcome sign when open.

• Install door draft excluders on all exterior doors

• Have your boiler serviced to ensure it is operating efficiently.

• Thermostat. It is estimated that a 1°C reduction in the thermostat setting can save up to 10% on energy consumption. What if you lowered it by 3°C and wore a sweater?

• Scheduler – Timer. I saw the office heater programmed to come on three hours before work.

Reset an hour before and turn off 30 minutes before stopping work – no complaints.

• Home – Check that your timer is set to turn on say 30 minutes before you normally get up, turn off 30 minutes before you close or leave if your house is unoccupied during the day. Turn it back on 30 minutes before you return and turn it off again at night 30 minutes or more before you go to bed.

• Programmer – Temperature. Many timers allow different temperature settings for different times of the day. Consider a lower temperature in the morning when you rush to leave, compared to the ambient temperature in the evening.

• Rooms. Heat only the rooms you occupy. Radiators off (or minimum setting if TRV fitted) in hall, utility room, bedrooms (unless used for study/work), spare rooms, etc.

• TRVs thermostatic radiator valves. Generally, the central heating thermostat will be placed in the hall where the temperature has little effect on that of the rooms you occupy!

However, TRVs normally allow you to select a setting – from 0 to 5 – which will adjust the flow of water from the boiler through the radiator to suit the temperature you need in that room.

• Upgrade. You can upgrade or install heating controls without replacing your boiler.

You should consider new heating controls if you don’t have a timer, at least a room thermostat or TRVs on your radiators. Modern room thermostats, for example, have more accurate temperature sensors, and many smart controls include additional energy-saving features.

Hot water

• Hot water tank – check thermostat set to 60°C

• Save hot water. Normally take a bath – take a shower?

• Spend 10 minutes in the shower? – entry and exit in five minutes?

Lighting

• Install LED lights in all rooms you live in and use. Compared to traditional halogen, CFL and tungsten bulbs, it’s a given in terms of lifespan and consumption. Savings can be up to 90%!

• And of course, use the OFF switch when you and other people in the office or home are not in the room!

• Offices – all lights off at night except for security reasons.

Appliances, computers, printers, gadgets, etc.

• OFF when not in use.

If you have not yet implemented these actions, there is usually a reduction of around 25% and more in your energy expenditure.

Finally, switch to a renewable energy provider when you can.