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Campaigning For UK Solar Owners Underpaid By Utility Companies

Paying top whack for the right to be ripped off

The London Times has exposed shockingly low rates paid by some Utility companies for surplus PV power generated by their customers. And Solar panel owners are comparing ways to claw back some of the money.
Suppliers charge 34p per kWh — but pay as little as 1p for the electricity they buy from householders, despite higher energy prices.

One reader on the web site says: “Ofgem should make it mandatory that the energy companies pay for export at a similar price as the import price, similar to octopus flex tariff.

You can get together with other off-grid subscribers to start your own local community energy company. Go to the Off-Grid Map Page to get started.

“If Government really want to support and promote Roof solar panels there should be net metering and stop all the noise about batteries etc, consumer pays the same price for export and import. In Australia two third households have solar panels whereas in UK it’s 10%.”

And another readers adds: “Only in the UK are you ripped off ! In France and Germany excess solar power is banked so acting as virtual batteries. You pay a nominal sum to get it back. In Spain price reduction/ subsidies can be as high as 60% for pv and battery.”

the precise way UK consumers can fight back against the rip-off Utility companies is complicated. you can buy cheaply between midnight and 06:30 and sell back anything unused and not needed for the following day. The differential between “buying cheap” and “selling dear” are fairly constant and do not appear to be markedly affected by the Ukraine situation.

“The best sell-back prices are usually between 16:00 and 19:00, says another reader. “There are apps that automatically manage the process, including the weather forecast for you precise location so you will know how much solar you should have). This allows a degree of automation as to what to buy and sell. It is a real eye-opener. My 4.2kWp Solar PV and 12.8kWh battery storage system is being installed this week. Cannot wait. The economics are transformed by the “agile” rates.”

However, the government did not set a minimum that suppliers that have to pay. E, which has about 300,000 customers, pays the lowest at 1p per kilowatt hour (kWh) exported, according to the website Eon and EDF pay 3p per kWh, although they have better rates if you also buy energy from these suppliers.

A typical 3.5kW solar system costs about £5,500, and this would produce about 2,646 kWh a year, although it depends on your location and the weather.

If you don’t have a battery to store your electricity (they cost between £3,000 and £6,000) you will lose about half of it —

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Energy

Grid On The Skids

The UK national grid is in danger of total collapse during national emergencies according to government tests carried out to prepare for a national emergency.

Meanwhile some of the UK’s biggest power firms have been caught out ripping off households by over half a billion pounds by gaming National Grid’s systems. The power regulator Ofgem has been shown up as hopelessly out of touch in both cases.

Alarming gaps in the UK’s ability to cope with a national power outage included “inconsistencies” in plans to manage impacts across society.

Government analysis of last year’s “war game” trial — named Mighty Oak — found “different levels in the readiness to respond to an outage” both locally and nationally.

Now, a second nationwide three-day Mighty Oak exercise has been ordered, beginning next week, involving hundreds of participants across the country.

A report said: “The aim is to fully test . . . the impacts this catastrophic risk would cause were it to occur.”

The Cabinet Office will be involved in meetings to deal with the staged crisis.

The war-gamer civil servants involved cannot use mobiles or online communication.

The tests comes amid growing fears over security of energy supply.

Documents warn in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” sectors including food, water supply and energy could be “severely disrupted” for up to a week. Sources say the exercises have taken on a new urgency since the war in Ukraine.

Vitol VPI, Uniper and SSE have been manipulating the electricity market by saying they will power down their generators at peak times, only to then demand a much higher price from the Grid to keep running.

It is claimed that a trio of Britain’s biggest energy firms are gaming the National Grid to rip off customers
Energy supplies are most under pressure in the evenings. The Grid sends out requests to power firms for more electricity when its supplies are under pressure and offers a higher payment to generators to step in to the gap.

But some have been announcing they will switch off, often with just a few hours’ notice ahead of the peak times.

Then they earn four times as much by switching back on just hours later to meet the Grid’s anticipated shortfalls.

The grid had to pay £42million on just one cold day last November to traders using their off-on technique.

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Weather forecast on local TV
Community

Heating bills UP in SoCal storms

Residents of Southern California have endured months of droughts, followed by floods, and now face brutal increases in the cost of home heating. That is if they are lucky enough to still have a power supply.

Close to 100,000 customers were without power in California Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.Us, as parts of the state contended with strong winds.

California imports 90 percent of its gas, so it’s reliant on pipelines. and many of those were closed for unplanned maintenance in November and December, limiting supply flowing to California and other Western states, said Aleecia Gutierrez, director of the California Energy Commission’s Energy Assessments Division. A pipeline explosion in 2021 had already reduced capacity to move gas from Texas and neighboring states, where much of California’s supply comes from.

Additionally, the past few months in California have seen an unusually high demand for heating. That came after a historically hot summer strained the state’s electricity grid, which is largely powered by natural gas, said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University.

California also has less natural gas storage than it once had, in part because Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles, one of the biggest natural gas storage sites in the Western United States, reduced its capacity after a major leak there in 2015. That means the state has fewer reserves when demands are high.

Taken alone, each of these issues may not have been enough to lead to such a big spike in gas prices, said Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley. But, “it has been a near-perfect storm of factors to boost the price of natural gas,” he said.

The relationship between demand and price takes time to appear, said Chris Higginbotham, a spokesman for the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “If a given storm comes and drives up the price of natural gas,” he said, “it typically takes time for that effect to show up at a retail level.”

Demand, however, is “one of the primary drivers of natural gas wholesale prices,” Higginbotham said, and if a storm like the current one were to increase demand, it “could affect the price utilities are paying.” Those costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Data from the USEIA show that stored gas in the Pacific region is well below five-year average levels, whereas all other regions in the country are close to or above average. This potential supply shortage could further raise prices, Higginbotham said.

Donna Biroczky, a social media marketer, has struggled to keep her Fontana home warm. “Our bill was probably triple this year from last January,” she said.

She has shut off her gas fireplaces and opted for electric heaters, stocking her house with “more blankets for people to use.”
She said skyrocketing prices for things that once felt affordable were forcing people to make trade-offs. “People are having to …

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Community

Van dwelling in rural UK

Fuelled by a desire to break free from mortgages, rent and commuting;  searching for the simple life, in beaches and beauty spots  a largely invisible, group are houseless but not homeless. Adam Butterworth, 26, an aeronautical design consultant, and volunteer at the RNLI, decided to live in a van after falling foul of an unscrupulous landlord. He explained: “I was spending £900 a month, nearly half my wages, to rent a one room studio flat that was filled with damp and causing me respiratory problems.

“Circumstance is the biggest thing. If you can afford a massive house, you always will buy one.

“A van is the most attractive alternative to haemorrhaging money on negligent landlords that couldn’t care less.

Yet financial freedom came at cost: the cold. Despite installing a log burner, wall insulation and getting creative with duvets, he said that low night-time temperatures, especially during winter, were “challenging.”

Without electricity or the internet, the van had taught him to enjoy the simpler things in life. He described how of a summer’s evening he would park facing the South Downs and admire the view with a bottle of locally produced craft beer.

“Where we live, we are blessed with places to go,” he said.

Henry Shanks, another long-term van resident based in Henfield, echoed this when he said that one of the best things about van life was the “constant stimulation from new places. “When you have had enough of that spot, you can just pack up and move along.

“It avoids any kind of stagnation of life.”

Being a musician, the mobility of a van was “ideal” for his career. Clad in lineage oak, it had running water, a kitchen, solar panels, gas, charging batteries and even a piano.

He spent £3,500 refitting the vehicle.

” alt=”” aria-hidden=”true” /When asked if West Sussex was a proising area to live in a van , the answer was “yes and no.

While people were “generally friendly”, there “wasn’t much space to park [and the] infrastructure is not great, recreation spots do not have facilities, like taps, toilets and rubbish bins.”

He also cited new laws aimed to clamp down on illegal traveller sites as “making life difficult.”

In January 2021, the Home Office implemented new ‘anti-trespass’ legislation that can land those camping on private land with hefty fines of up to £2,500 and jail terms.

Growing tired of living with her parents, 25-year-old Laura Bates from Steyning was planning on buying a van to “pay her own way.”

While studying a master’s and working part-time at an engineering firm in Storrington, she explained that “financial reasons” had influenced this decision.

“Trying to rent, save for a mortgage and have any sort of life is pretty much impossible.”

A van was also seen as offering the chance to “declutter” and “simplify” her life.

She said: “we have so much stuff,

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Community

Extinction Rebellion protests continue

Climate activists Extinction Rebellion continued their global “summer rebellion” in London and Munich today.

In London, the target was London Concrete, the British capital’s biggest supplier of ready-mixed concrete which supplies a major road tunnel project under the River Thames.

Dozens of activists holding a banner saying “The air that we grieve” blocked entrances to the site in east London, near the Olympic park. The group said it would disrupt the site for the day in an attempt to halt the expansion of the works.

“Concrete has a huge environmental impact and building another tunnel will only make air pollution across East London worse,” said Eleanor McAree, 25, from Extinction Rebellion.

“Air pollution is already at dangerous levels and is affecting the health of children and adults in the area.”

London Concrete is a unit of Franco-Swiss group LafargeHolcim. Local groups are expected to target LafargeHolcim facilities all across Europe and beyond. The Silvertown Tunnel under the Thames will link the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown.

Extinction Rebellion wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis it says will bring starvation and social collapse.

On Monday it sought to sow chaos in five British cities as part of what it says is a “summer uprising”.The group blocked streets in London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol and Leeds on Monday.

Activists towed boats into carriageways to stop traffic, as members gave talks or performed music for those gathered.

The activists are pushing for local Government in each area to “act now” on climate change issues which they have highlighted, with details of further action expected later today.

Extinction Rebellion activists disrupted London with 11 days of protests in April that it cast as the biggest act of civil disobedience in recent British history. Iconic locations were blocked, the Shell building defaced, trains stopped and Goldman Sachs targeted.

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Houswives star publicity still in Green dress
People

Teri Hatcher living in a van for her YouTube series

In a great piece of self-promotion, actress Teri Hatcher first encouraged and then denied the story that she was down and out and living in a van.

in fact Ms Hatcher allowed herself to be Papped sitting in her VW Microbus while filming a series called Van Therapy.

“Teri Hatcher is ‘Desperate For Cash & Living In A Van’said one discussion in ‘Celebrity News and Gossip’ started by yaso1, yesterday at 3:56 PM.

In a pristine vintage VW bus? I don’t think so.

“Teri Hatcher Shocking Photos Living Camper Van.” said another headline.

“Getting off the grid is white people’s version of being woke,” said another chat board comment

“I would love for it to be true but I doubt it. Homegirl has been working since the 1980s plus she has residuals from multiple tv shows” said another commment.

Teri Hatcher herself spoke out on Thursday against Star magazine’s claim that she’s broke, homeless and living in her van, calling it ‘totally absurd.’

The 53-year-old actress told KTLA 5 ‘It’s categorically false. I am not broke. I have done very well investing my money. I’m not homeless. And I’m not living out of my van.’

She continued: ‘I am shooting my YouTube series Van Therapy in my van.’

Her interview with KTLA 5’s reporter Sam Rubin took place in London on Thursday, which is International Women’s Day.

Teri said that this was the perfect time to talk about it, with International Women’s Day as well as the Time’s Up and #MeToo movement.

The TV star said on KTLA 5: ‘The voice of women collectively is saying “We’re not just going to take it and accept it and be quiet about it all, because we have for decades.”‘

Adding: ‘I just felt like even not for me, someone has to say “you can’t do this. you can’t egregiously lie, hurtfully, with such a ridiculous story that it’s a kind of harassment and bullying that we can’t take anymore.’

Sam reported that Terry is speaking with her lawyer about possibly seeking legal action.

Teri has owned the green 1978 VW bus camper for many years but has never lived in it.

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Community

Stealth camping in the city

Most of the people I know of who live in their vans or other vehicles are travelers, they camp, they don’t tend to live in the city, not so for Jay, he lives in a retired U-Haul truck with his cat and a great dane! Yes, I said a great dane, as large as those tend to be, it’s apparently not too big for this conversion.

I like how Jay did his conversion, he kept everything very simple, which kept the weight as well as the cost at a minimum. Though the weight was much less of a factor since he used a commercial moving van as the base, it’s meant to carry a lot more weight than standard build vehicles.

I have always thought that U-Haul moving trucks would make a great camper van, they have plenty of power, they have lots of space, the kind of space you can use to create your own personalized living space. The other nice thing about the U-Haul (commercial style) trucks are they are inconspicuous, you will not draw much attention, especially if it’s painted white, it will blend in with any other commercial vehicle in the city.

Jay does in fact use his van as a delivery vehicle, so he is actually driving it around town, he left a space between the back roll up door and the inner wall/door so that he can place the items he delivers without showing that he is actually living inside his vehicle, and when he’s not using it in town, ie in a safer place, he can leave the roll up door open and use that space as a porch.

I was a bit surprised to find that Jay needs 2 air conditioners to keep the box cool, mainly for his animals, but only during the hottest part of summer, I wonder if he could add any more insulation, especially to the roof area, that might help keep the box from overheating and help keep in the cool air.

Watch and enjoy, let me know if this is something you would like to do, I’d be curious to know how you would implement this.



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Community

Stealth van build and tour

Could you live in a van? I could if I had this one, it’s designed to be a “stealth van”, it has loads of space and the space is used in a most logical and efficient manner. I like that it is tall enough to comfortably stand, even for the taller chaps. It does have a bathroom, as of the time of this video, the bathroom only contains a toilet, but it will eventually contain a shower.

The video briefly shows and explains the following features of their van:
-Garage and storage area
-LPG storage box
-Bedroom
-Natural light and ventilation
-Benefits of a ‘stealth’ style conversion
-Kitchen and dinette area
-Overhead storage cabinets
-Bathroom and toilet area; and
-Battery storage and supply (lithium phosphate)

https://youtu.be/J7dgPL0ZNbw



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Land

Perfect little fixer-upper – $13,000

It’s an historic cottage in Wales, a listed building, that will make an ideal, tiny off-grid home for someone who is very handy with DIY.  The fixer-upper £10,000 UK pounds, about $13,000 at today’s rates, and despite its downtown location it truly has no Utility power or water. This is very rare in the UK, because the European Union has done its best to bring Utility power to every nook and cranny.

The one room building in Menai Bridge, with a view of the local Suspension Bridge, is about the size of three king-size beds. But that is plenty of room if you are clever – put your bed on a platform, and underneath it could be your well, either fed from a spring if you are lucky , or else from the roof into an underground tank you could dig easily,

Menai Bridge is a small town and community on the Isle of Anglesey in north-west Wales. It overlooks the Menai Strait and lies by the Menai Suspension Bridge, built in 1826 by Thomas Telford, just over the water from Bangor.  Guess the average price for a home in this delightful part of Wales?…..Over £230,000 ($300,000).

The white walled house actually has an electricity supply at the moment – a cable from a next door property – but that will be cut off upon sale.

No matter. You can run a few solar panels from the roof, feeding into a small car battery. A ground source heat pump will warm your cockles.  The listed building status might cause a few headaches however as the panels will have to be cunningly disguised, or placed temporarily each day.

 

 

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Van living is road to freedom

“Living in a van, I can make money, be an artist, and travel three continents,” says Nathan Murphy, an accomplished amateur rock climber from Cornwall in the UK, who has spent the past two years fitting out and then travelling in his Ford Transit.

With the number of van conversions and purpose built motor homes at an all time high, what used to be a tiny subculture is going mainstream. The mobile life is no longer seen as a family vacation option. Improved technology, better camping gear, mobile phones and the internet mean it just as viable long term as owning a bricks and mortar home.

We have written about Nathan before, but recently he was featured in The Sun newspaper, and that was a reminder at how mainstream the lifestyle has become.

These days, retirees and students are just as likely to be buying a recreational vehicle if they can afford it, or converting a small van if they are on a budget. From snowbirds (the retirement generation seeking the sun) to snowflakes (as thin-skinned millennials are sometimes known) there is a growing realisation that a McMansion has too many overheads that eat into your freedom.Van living is a way to “make your life cheaper so you can do more with less.”
“Why engage in a system that is broken?” says Nate in an interview on the off-grid youtube channel. “I just don’t want to waste my entire life paying the bank interest.” There is a housing crisis affecting the generation that are leaving college now – because not enough homes are being built, and scarcity is keeping prices too high. “More and more people are choosing a different option,” says Nathan. “There are hundreds of thousands of people across Europe looking at alternatives – tiny homes, off-grid, van living. Its a huge trend.”

He was brought up in a big old house in Cornwall that needed constant works – which gave him the skills he uses van living.

“I can do a huge amount for very little money,and my rent is zero. I can do so many things that most people don’t dare to do – I just want to show people they can do it all,” by reducing their living costs to nearly zero, meaning they no longer need to be wage slaves.

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Community

Living here vs there

When we left the big city, well more like the outskirts of the big city, we lived in a trailer park on the edge of Irving Texas, it felt more rural because right across the street was lots of industrial and empty land, but even so, this was in the middle of what we called the metroplex of Dallas and Fort Worth. We had all the usual utilities, electric, water, sewer, gas, phone, cable, trash pickup and the such. There were grocery stores and other major shopping within a very short mile or so driving distance. We had neighbors, lots of them very close by, there was no getting away from people.

Living in this plethora of people, we had very few friends, really just one or two to speak of and they didn’t live nearby. We honestly didn’t know our next door neighbors, oh we were on nodding terms with them, we would recognize them if we saw them at the gas station, but we weren’t very close with any of them, we never visited them nor them us.

When we moved out west, to a very rural area, with few people, very few people, we expected to become hermits, to not have much if any contact with the few neighbors we had out here. We didn’t know anyone and expected to continue living like we did in Irving, with little contact with the people out here.

It didn’t take long to discover that this wasn’t going to be the way we would live, moving into a tiny (but spread out) community, everyone knows what everyone else is doing, word gets out fast that there are new people around and the community quickly jumps in to meet you and make you feel welcome. One of the things that we have learned living so far away from any major town and so far away from other people is the safety net that is available in the bigger cities just isn’t here in smaller communities, so it’s up to the people to look out for each other and help each other as much as possible.

We have more friends since moving away from people than we have ever had before, and I like it! We have a network of people out here who will jump in and help each other when there is a need, such as a vehicle breaking down, if you are stopped on the side of the road, all you need do is wait a bit for the next car (or truck) to come along and you will get a ride. If you need work done but don’t have a lot of money to pay, then people will donate or barter their time and skills.

Of course, along with all that familiarity comes some drawbacks, I mentioned that living in a small community, everyone and I do mean …

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Community

Truck garden

Growing up I had heard of truck farms, usually small family farms, when the produce is ready, the farmer takes the produce to a farmer’s market in a truck, thus the name “truck farm”… but this is a different concept, this is actually a garden that is contained in a box truck!

This truck came to Nick Runkle and Justin Cutter in a roundabout way, large windows had been placed in the box part of the truck when it had been a mobile art gallery in its former life. The windows made it a perfect greenhouse, which is exactly what it became. Getting their funding from a Kickstarter program, they reinvented the truck to make it a fully functioning greenhouse on wheels.

As part of the renovation, the truck was converted to run on waste vegetable oil, making it even more sustainable. Where is it legal and upon getting permission, they are able to pull up behind a restaurant, they pop a hose into a barrel of waste cooking/frying oil, they hand crank the oil into a tank where it is filtered 2 times before being used as fuel. The truck comes complete with rain water catchment and its own composting box, so nothing goes to waste.

Not only are tasty veg grown inside of this truck, it is used as a teaching tool, going around to schools, spending the day teaching the kids all about sustainable gardening, from kindergarten to universities, they travel all over the USA, spreading their knowledge and wisdom.

https://youtu.be/h-g74F-U9yU



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