Back to basics

Back to basics

Three top tips to combat rising energy costs by Thomas Petuaud-Letang, Senior Vice President Europe & Global Distribution - Home & Distribution Division, Schneider Electric

We once thought that 2021 was the most extraordinary year the energy industry has ever faced. Global economies re-opened and rebounded after an unwelcome hibernation. Meanwhile, warmer summers and harsher winters also contributed to worldwide electricity demand surging by 6%.  But 2022 had other ideas: We are now experiencing one of the biggest energy challenges in recent memory.

Any early hopes that last year’s surge in demand would lead to a green energy revolution failed to materialise. Renewable sources did grow in 2021—also by 6%—but not enough to satisfy global electricity requirements. A continued reliance on ‘dirtier’ energy sources, such as coal and gas-burning power plants, increased CO2 emissions and stretched energy supply chains further. As a result, suppliers tackled inflated wholesale prices, with governments across Europe taking urgent measures to shield consumers from soaring fees. But things haven’t got any easier with the world now facing an energy crisis, supply costs are expected to soar even higher later this year.

Many of us are now wondering how we can combat these rising energy costs. Yes, a global switch to renewable energy promises to ease pressure on power grids, and eventually drive prices back down. But this will take many years. What can we do today?

Here are my top tips for managing our power consumption, making our homes more efficient, and reducing our energy bills in 2022.

  1. Go back to basics

With the average home now facing steeper gas and electricity bills, it makes sense to look for personal changes that can help cut down our usage. And it can be starting with the simpler things.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, we can save £55 a year simply by switching appliances off at the plug, rather than leaving them on standby. The same goes for lights—turning them off each time we leave a room saves around £20 annually, and even more if you switch to LED bulbs.

Washing clothes at 30°C, avoiding tumble dryer usage, and reducing showers to four minutes long can also collectively help save up to £150 each year. And then there are wider changes, too. How many of us have thought about optimising our heating or hot water? We mostly set it once and leave it forever, or forget even how to change it, but adjusting timers and programmers to our usage can make a huge difference. By being more mindful about energy, we can take the first step towards lower bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

  1. Take control with smart tech

Unfortunately, life can get in the way of our energy-saving efforts, and it can be tough to spot what needs to be switched off when. But advances in smart home technology mean we can access transformative insights into our energy usage and spend. Take smart meters.

Smart meters are self-reading electricity and gas meters that automatically send readings to suppliers, and then charge based on our actual energy usage rather than estimations. They often come with digital displays too, which monitor the energy we’re using and reveal its cost in pounds and pence. Some even allow us to set an energy budget and then update us on our progress, helping us to spot when and where we can cut back. And smart meters are just one example of the energy-saving tech transforming sustainability worldwide. 

Smart plugs can help reduce the consumption of standby appliances, like TVs. Smart blinds can automatically open to welcome natural light in the winter, and close to deflect hot rays in the summer. Smart thermostats can even allow us to remotely control household temperatures from our smartphones. So, if we’ve left the house and forgotten to turn our radiators off, we can make adjustments in just a few simple taps.

Studies show that smart devices can contribute to a household energy saving of up to 40%. So, it’s no surprise that the number of smart homes in Europe and North America is set to reach 197 million by 2024. Simply, the more smart devices we use, the more power we, almost literally, put into our own hands. And we can even go one step smarter.

  1. Make your smart home do the work for you

Smart home energy centres are software systems that use intelligent data to analyse our homes’ energy consumption and optimise our usage. Installing an energy centre gives us a full view and control over how, when, and where our power is used, and automatically help us to reduce consumption. For instance, the centre will turn off appliances as soon as they’re not required. And for homes with solar panels, it’ll also prioritise power generated from the sun rather than the grid, slashing our bills and carbon footprint.

We can even set these centres to ensure we don’t go over costly energy limits, and only power devices at non-peak times when the cost of energy is at its lowest—handy for big drainers of energy like electric vehicles. The Wiser Energy Centre from Schneider Electric is a powerful example of a smart energy centre that almost acts like the brain of your home, interlinking every single device from phone to fridge to give you complete control.

More efficient, sustainable living

There is no magic wand that can immediately wave away rising energy costs in the wake of a global crisis like the current one we are living in. But through ever-advancing smart technology that often feels like magic, plus the small, everyday energy-saving changes we can enact ourselves, there are things we can do to ease costs and worry.

And if it’s possible to take a positive from the state of energy in 2022, it’s that more and more people are educating themselves about their personal energy consumption. Homeowners are now looking into new ways that may help them save money on their bills, and access green government grants, by switching to renewable energy.

So, whilst this spike in interest around energy stems from financial concerns, it also has a beneficial effect on the long-term health of our world. And with the power of smart technology behind us, we can start a shift towards electrification and digitalisation that benefits not just our pockets, but the planet as a whole.

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