Friday, April 20, 2007

British Gas Complaints Surge

Hello there sunbeams,

I watched with interest as the BBC Breakfast headlines poured from my TV this morning and Phil Bentley who is the MD of British Gas and who has been in post for around 6 weeks was interviewed to respond to the huge surge in British Gas complaints.
Gas hob
British Gas has taken on 800 extra staff to deal with queries

British Gas has seen complaints from customers more than double since last year, according to Energywatch.

From October 2006 to March 2007, the firm had 21,427 complaints, most of which were from customers disputing their bills, the watchdog body said.

The firm's share of the electricity and gas market is 30%, but it gained more than 70% of the industry's complaints.

British Gas admitted that it was having problems with a new computerised billing system.

Extra staff

I have given the British Gas billing department our meter readings at least eight times and their system still fails to send me a correct bill. On the day I received a letter from customer services saying this was being looked into, someone turned up at our house to turn off our gas!
Curigwen Haas, Goole

Energywatch said that the total number of complaints and enquiries from British Gas customers hit a record 14,001 last month.

"It had a problem when it migrated a lot of customers' accounts from one database to another, and that's going to cause a problem for any company," Energywatch's campaigns director Adam Scorer told the BBC.

"But it has compounded the error by not having the level of customer service, and the ability to handle customer complaints, in a way that leaves customers assured that British Gas is taking their problem seriously."

Obviously we apologise for the inconvenience and the stress
Phil Bentley
British Gas

British Gas said it had taken on 800 extra staff to deal with customer queries, but admitted the firm's performance was "not in a place where we want it to be" and that it "very much regretted" that customers had suffered bad experiences.

"Obviously we apologise for the inconvenience and the stress," managing director Phil Bentley told the BBC.

"I understand what it's like to get a bill that's incorrect. We apologise to those customers and we're working very hard to improve services."

The company added it had installed a new billing system, which it claimed would "greatly improve service".

The majority of complaints over the six-month period - 15,456 - were about billing, said Energywatch, on subjects including incorrect meter readings and out-of-date account details.

Refund woes

While British Gas complaints have more than doubled, most other suppliers have at least halved their complaints on a year-by-year basis.

Customers complained about delays in issuing refunds, failure to amend account details even when they had already told the firm, and money being taken from their accounts even after transferring to another supplier, according to data from Energywatch.

The firm with the next highest number of complaints, NPower, had 2,535 complaints or 9% of the total, followed by Scottish Power with 6% and Powergen with 5%.

Meanwhile EDF had 4% of complaints, while Scottish and Southern Energy had 1% of complaints.

So I guess the advice would be shop around for best value in more ways than one - why not try a search around my linked website - this has saved numerous customers £100's of pounds per year on their utility bills and as they don't sponsor sports or have major advertising campaigns. Utility Warehouse is a discount club whose members benefit from reduced energy and telecoms offers backed by a triple price promise. Please click on the link to find out more

Interestingly, Telecom Plus (Utility Warehouse) have been voted top for customer service by Which? magazine and having switched my own energy supply to them I have found their service to be excellent and they also provide single point billing which is great.

Enjoy the weekend

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Brown's Last Budget - Greener Than Before!

Hello There my little EEC Geeks,

UK Budget, 21st March 2007

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s budget is edging towards going green but he also couldn’t resist dramatically revealing a reduction in the basic rate of income tax from 22p to 20p from April next year – to maintain voter confidence in the Labour Government, and most of the media will concentrate on the income tax changes. However, he pledged to keep the Climate Change Levy, and announced the following initiatives designed to help the environment, and sustainability of resources:

Fuel duty up 2p per litre from October, in line with inflation (although putting VAT on airline tickets is ruled out.) .

Road tax on highest-polluting vehicles up to £300 and to £400 from April next year.

The least-polluting vehicles to have their duty cut to £35.

Public investment in science will rise from £5bn this year to £6.3bn by 2010/11.

Grants of between £300 and £4,000 for vulnerable groups and pensioners having insulation and central heating in their homes - hey folks sorry please dont be misled cos unfortunately there's no change, dont get excited its still the same Warm Front grant (£2700 standard with up to £4000 for oil fired central heating) and the Warm Front rebate for the over 60s who install new central heating and can claim £300 - which is really more like a £250 grant by the time the programme manager has taken out their "admin fee"....

Until 2012 all new zero carbon homes up to £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty.

The landfill tax will rise by £8 each year from April 2008.

£50m for a 10-country initiative across central Africa to prevent the destruction of the second largest rain forest in the world.

£800m to the Environmental Transformation Fund, jointly run by the international development and environment secretaries.

On maintaining the Climate Change Levy, Brown said:“The Climate Change Levy, the resulting climate change agreements and the carbon trust funded by it have cut carbon emissions by a total of over 28 million tonnes.This is the reason we are already able to meet our Kyoto targets.“And in each of the next 5 years these climate change measures will cut emissions by more than 6 million tonnes, accounting by 2010 for 40 per cent of our total carbon reductions.“Because of the Climate Change Levy over 10,000 businesses have signed climate change agreements. Under the Carbon Trust funded by the levy 3,000 businesses have reduced their emissions. And enhanced capital allowances have underwritten investment in 13,000 energy-saving products.“So I reject representations to abolish the climate change levy. And I can confirm today our resolve to continue to reduce emissions including through the climate levy”.

You can access the full Budget report here - chapter 7 concentrates on the environmental issues (pdf format)

Let me know what you think about the Chancellor’s Budget: was it a missed opportunity, or good for the environment?

Making Some Good Choices Gordon but you could have done a whole lot more to help pensioners and the fuel poor and also encourage the fuel rich by investing more in the LCBP which frankly needed more funding after the first streams got allocated almost overnight - there is such a high demand it needs to be supported and certainly not underestimated!

From Your Friend The Energy Angel - now living in a gorgeous cottage in deepest Cheshire with lovely neighbours in a small village with only 200 people - more tales soon- now I know the real differences between a new modern house and an older period property and the energy efficiency issues - another log on the fire please Sean ! Oil fired central heating - how much ??!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why Isnt Ken Making Good Choices?

Hello There My Friends

You will note from the last posting that npower are the official energy suppliers to the new Wembley Stadium. Thats all well and good if they have been put through an open and robust tendering process as a large proportion of the funding for this stadium has come from the public purse.

The LDA is one of the stakeholders in the project.

Why then are npower being allowed to offer free tours to the new stadium but ONLY if you sign up to have them supply your gas and electricity? Why isn't anyone allowed to have a tour regardless of their choice of energy supplier?

This is wrong on so many levels and smacks of abuse of position - I understand that companies sponsor sports events, buildings, etc for promotional purposes but to use this particular project in such a way is a fundamental breach of all the things I thought Ken Livingstone held close to his heart?

Has Red Ken sold out ? Or is he no longer able to make good choices? I hope its neither of these and simply an oversight as this decision is a bad judgement call unless all the other energy suppliers are also going to be allocated tickets to the stadium tours?

Its a public building built using £21million of LDA public money - so any tax payer should be entitled to visit and enjoy a free tour and not have to sign up to anything beforehand.

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Wembley Stadium

Hello There My Friends,

Wembley Stadium is now complete and the keys have been handed over to the FA.

npower is proud to have been chosen as the Official Energy Supplier to the new 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium. So npower are the power behind the dramatic Arch which lights up London's night skyline.

Spanning 315 metres and 133 metres high, the illuminated Arch is the longest single span roof structure in the world.

The Arch and Stadium are powered under a unique 'renewable' energy contract, a symbol of npower's commitment to using energy responsibly and respecting the environment.

Go and see it for yourself! Its four years overdue, is millions of pounds over budget and doesn't appear to contain any renewable energy technology whatsoever apart from being tied to the npower Juice contract. Brilliant! So is this another example of construction companies failing to integrate new technology into buildings and in this case its probably because the project costs were already impacting upon any profits from the construction?

Shame on you Wembley planners - lets hope they can atleast have the opportunity to switch energy suppliers if necessary in future!

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

The First In A Long Line Of Price Drops - Hopefully

Hello There My Friends,

Gas ring
Gas prices are on the way down
After months of furious debate, British Gas customers will see their energy bills fall on Monday next week.

Gas prices will be reduced by 17% and electricity by 11%. The average annual dual fuel bill will fall by £167 to £953, British Gas has said.

Since British Gas made its announcement in February, four out of the UK's six biggest energy suppliers have followed suit and pledged to lower prices.

Since 2002, British Gas has increased gas prices seven times and electricity tariffs six times.

This is a step in the right direction and will help the many families who struggle to pay their energy bills
Karen Darby, Simplyswitch

The energy giant last cut prices in early 2000.

The company, owned by Centrica, has been criticised for its high tariffs, which consumer groups say affect vulnerable consumers.

Wholesale prices

Wholesale gas prices have fallen by about 50% over the past six months.

In response, suppliers have started to lower their domestic energy prices.

"As wholesale costs have fallen sharply in recent months, a price cut from British Gas is not before time," said Karen Darby, chief executive officer of energy switching website Simplyswitch.

"This is a step in the right direction and will help the many families who struggle to pay their energy bills. However, as its energy prices have rocketed in recent years, the company still has some way to go to redress the balance," Ms Darby added.

Experts suggest the latest reductions could help British Gas to hang on to its customers.

More than four million people switched their electricity or gas supplier last year in a bid to cut their bills, recent figures from energy regulator Ofgem showed.

British Gas has lost about one million customers during the past 12 months, has made over 1300 staff redundant as a result and in an effort to reduce costs and has closed down their Stokeley Park office. Its interesting to note that they also appear to be struggling with reaching their EEC targets as their Here to Help programme is being seen by many as an expensive solution when compared to other utility funded energy efficiency programmes. For each property that is a "no measure", BG charges the Social Housing Provider or Council £25 + VAT for the survey cost - okay the scheme incorporates a benefits entitlement check (plus signposting to specific charity partners) but it doesnt include any follow up of such advice so its unrealistic to assume that every person who experiences a positive check actually gets the money that they are entitled to thereafter?

Social Housing Providers - take note and Make Good Choices!

And before anyone goes switching to British Gas thinking that they may save some money, take a long hard and close look at their package - including the fact that BG are also introducing a £4.50 quarterly penalty fine charge for ALL customers who do not pay their bills by direct debit - that includes online payments ! Trading Standards have described this policy decision as "astonishing" and also "unlawful".

Finally don't always think that USwitch is the best site for advice either - they recommend energy suppliers that may offer deals in your region but only promoting the energy suppliers that will pay USwitch a referral fee. As my good friend Katie from Bolton assures me, you are far better to seek advice from Energywatch!

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Europe Diary: Mark Mardell

Hello My Friends and welcome to the European diary of Mark Mardell: Going green

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell looks at the challenge facing Europe as the pressure to tackle global warming confronts the needs of heavy energy users - and the difficulties of sorting climate truth from climate myth.

The diary is published every Thursday - bookmarking this page will always take you to the latest issue.


The fields around Toledo in Spain are such a vibrant green that they almost seem to vibrate. It won't last long, of course - by early summer they will be dry and brown.

Angel Oliveros Zafra works on his farm near Toledo, Spain
Angel Oliveros Zafra finds the unpredictability of the weather hard

But farmer Angel Oliveros Zafra says something is happening beyond the normal seasonal changes and it's costing him money and his peace of mind. He bends to show me a little purple flower with a thick stem. It's a weed and they never used to be here. The seeds blow everywhere and it takes ages to get them out. He shows me a dry gully, edged with grass but filled with plastic bags and other rubbish, not water.

Angel says the stream always dried up in the heat of summer but never at this time of year. When he was a boy he and his brother Jose Louis used to play at catching frogs while his father worked the fields. Nowadays, the frogs have gone. So has his brother. Jose Louis still lives on the farm but is away most days, working as a commercial traveller. It's less stressful and absolutely necessary to make ends meet.

There have been years of drought but Angel says the unpredictability is worse: frosts at strange times of year, howling winds when they're not expected. The figures he gives are staggering. The yield of vegetables has dropped by a tenth in a couple of decades. And the production of olives has dropped by the same ratio in just three years. He is in no doubt man-made climate change is to blame.

Angel Oliveros Zafra works on his farm near Toledo, Spain
Unseasonal weather has caused drops in yields, Angel says

I feel a little cautious. While the evidence that climate change is man-made is just about beyond doubt, it is more difficult to find evidence of its pernicious effects in Europe. When I am pressing for examples to illustrate TV pieces about the summit, I keep being told about roses blooming early in Britain or the warmest winter ever in the Netherlands. Fine, but this won't worry most people, except as a sign.

When pushed, many other potential stories don't quite stand up. Angel's story is a moving one, but later I read the exact same area suffered mass emigration in the 17th Century because of ... wait for it ... unseasonal frosts and long droughts that destroyed agriculture. Perhaps Europe's leaders are on the brink of doing something truly altruistic for the rest of the world, not for Europe.

Angel says the world belongs to everyone, but that could spell trouble at the summit. It also belongs to the Poles, the Finns and the Hungarians who have heavy energy needs.


It's late at night and we have just arrived in southern Poland. Although the car windows are shut tight against the cold, there is an all-pervading smell. Slightly acrid and medicinal, its inherent unpleasantness is at odds with the memories it evokes of childhood and cosy warmth. It is the smell of coal.

A Polish miner
A tenth of the world's coal lies under the ground in Poland

Here Poland's attitude to coal is in your face, or at least down your throat. Tony Blair and other EU leaders are full of enthusiasm to set what they regard as ambitious Europe-wide targets for cutting greenhouse gases at their summit this week but the Poles are none too enthusiastic.

Many diplomats regard the twins who run the Polish government as mavericks with a strange and unpredictable negotiating style, but their attitude to CO2 emissions is understandable. Here are a couple of statistics: a tenth of the world's coal is under the ground here, and more than 95% of Poland's electricity is generated by burning it.

It's little wonder that the Brothers Kaczynski are making the argument that if Europe should cut back on its CO2 emissions, Poland shouldn't have to meet as tough a target.


Silesia has far fewer mines than it used to but it's still a very big industry. Boleslaw Smialy is one of the smaller mines but still this is production on a grand scale. Everywhere there are small mountains of coal and tall buildings that seem to go up for ever.

Mark Mardell at a mine in southern Poland
Poland's mining industry has some catching up to do

Three hours even on the surface of the mine is, in a way, like a day at the beach. The stuff gets everywhere: up your nose, under your nails, caked thick around your trousers. Doing my "piece to camera" I feel like a cartoon character on the edge of the cliff. My producer and cameraman urge me to take a step back and then another step to the right. My feet sink further into what looks like firm asphalt but turns out to be sticky, coal dust-impregnated mud. Then there's the boots. And after days and days of un-Mardell-like brushing and scrubbing I can report that Italian leather and Silesian coal slurry don't make for a happy partnership.

At the mine the large green gates are topped with crossed hammers in a circle, reminiscent of communist times, but in the large works hall the same symbol stands either side of a large statue of the Virgin. There are few miners visible, and just about all of the work above ground is done by computer, which makes the managers very proud. But looking at the equipment, you realise that the argument that Poland's industry has 40 years of catching up to do is not just an excuse.


There is the same atmosphere of the mingled Marian and the Marxist at the Kompania Weglowa headquarters. A metallic statue of St Barbara, the patron saint of miners, stands in a hall of dirty brown marble and big brass doors. Surely this building cannot have changed much since the communist era. Our guide says: "On St Barbara's day, miners stop working and start drinking." I feel like I am in an episode of "Life on Mars".

Men in brown suits with mustard ties run this place, matching the marble. They seem slightly bewildered by questions about pollution, first answering that they are cutting back on sulphur dioxide emissions (the stuff that causes acid rain). When I say I am talking about carbon dioxide, they then say that their coal is ecologically friendly and much of it is smokeless. When I press them on greenhouse gases they say this is something for the electricity company or the government, not them.

Rather exasperated, I say that if the EU was trying to cut back on the amount of ink around it would be perfectly reasonable to expect pen manufacturers to have an opinion about it, or at least how it would affect sales. Here they are on steadier ground. Poland is increasing its consumption of coal and sales are going up, and they expect them to continue rising. Mr Blair et al have quite a circle to square if the Polish coal bosses and Angel are going to share the world.

Mark Mardell - helping us to Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Barroso Gas Guzzler

Bonas tardes Amigos !

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
Mr Barroso says his role is to set EU-wide energy targets
Jose Barroso, who is the president of the European Commission, has defended himself from criticism over his choice of a petrol-guzzling family car.

Jose Manuel Barroso's four-wheel drive emits far more carbon dioxide than the EU's own targets for vehicles.

But Mr Barroso says comments about his environmentally damaging car smack of "overzealous moralism".

The row comes as EU leaders are meeting to discuss carbon emissions targets at a major summit in Brussels.

'Private choices'

Mr Barroso is in favour of tougher curbs on carbon emissions as part of Europe's efforts to combat global warming. But he has defended his choice of a Volkswagen Tourag, a model that emits around 350 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven.

The amount is well above the 130 grams per kilometre target set for all cars on Europe's roads by 2012.

"Look, I don't comment on private choices, the choices of your family or my family," Mr Barroso told the BBC. "Our duty is to set targets and translate them into legislation. I don't think this climate of over-zealous moralism on the environment helps us."

The BBC's business reporter, Mark Gregory, says that Mr Barroso is not alone in making personal choices that jar with public policy.

Most commissioners, he says, drive cars that pollute at above-average levels with German-built high-tech BMWs or Mercedes being the favoured models.

British Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, however, has opted for a fuel-thirsty Jaguar. Nice one Mandy ! Well I guess atleast you don't have 2 jags like Mr Prescott - well we hope not anyway?

Commissioners - please start putting your money where your mouths are and Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

EU Agrees Renewable Energy Target

Hello There My Friends,

Braes of Doune wind farm in Scotland
EU states will have to embrace wind, solar and hydroelectric power
At long last European Union leaders have agreed to adopt a binding target on the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, officials say.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Europe was now able to lead the way on climate change.

The 27 EU states will each decide how they contribute to meeting a 20% boost overall in renewable fuel use by 2020.

The measures could include a ban on filament light bulbs by 2010, forcing people to switch to fluorescent bulbs.

The bulbs last longer but more are more expensive to buy - however with improvements in their technology and production and more purchases, prices are set to reduce and so people should buy green on lighting without a second thought. Even the utility companies in the UK provide free CFLs to Priority Group customers so theres no excuse for all of society to go green where lighting is concerned?

In another key measure, agreed on Thursday, EU leaders said they would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. BBC world affairs correspondent Nick Childs says there is an air of real achievement in Brussels.

But, he says, the compromises over each nation's share of the burden in reaching the targets have yet to be negotiated, meaning the hard decisions may still lie ahead.

'Crucial Issue'

Mr Barroso described the agreement as historic, saying it was the most significant in which he had played a part.

"We can say to the rest of the world, Europe is taking the lead, you should join us in fighting climate change," he said.

We can avoid what could well be a human calamity
Angela Merkel
German Chancellor

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "These are a set of groundbreaking, bold, ambitious targets for the European Union.

"It gives Europe a clear leadership position on this crucial issue facing the world."

Looking ahead to the G8 summit of industrialised nations in June, Mr Blair said the European deal would give "a good chance" of getting the US, China and India on board too.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired the two-day summit, also welcomed the package of binding measures.

The EU deal on climate change is totally unnecessary, given that Man is not causing global warming
Andrew Howlett, Manchester

"I personally am very satisfied and happy that it has been possible to open the door into a whole new dimension of European co-operation in the years to come in the area of energy and combating climate change," she said.

"We can avoid what could well be a human calamity."

The EU plan involves:

  • A 10% minimum target on the use of bio-fuels in transport by 2020
  • A commitment to increase use of solar, wind and hydroelectric power
  • A possible ban on incandescent bulbs - with filaments - in offices, street lights and private homes by the end of the decade

EU officials are working on a directive that would compel the use of modern low-energy fluorescent light bulbs. It could come into force as early as next year.

The Australian government announced similar plans to phase out old-style filament bulbs last month.

Nuclear Concession

The statement on renewable energy sources allows flexibility in how each country contributes to the overall target for the EU.

Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac
EU leaders will negotiate on how the overall target is reached
Poorer Eastern European countries, which are more dependent on heavy industry and carbon-heavy coal, had argued they would struggle to make the investment in wind farms and solar power necessary to meet binding targets.

The final text allayed their fears by stating that "differentiated national overall targets" for renewables would be set, "with due regard to a fair and adequate allocation taking account of different national starting points".

In what is viewed as a concession to France, the text recognises the contribution of nuclear energy in "meeting the growing concerns about safety of energy supply and carbon dioxide emissions reductions".

However, it also highlights safety concerns, stating that "nuclear safety and security" should be "paramount in the decision-making process".

It is thought the EU could offer to extend its 20% target for emissions cuts to 30% if other heavy polluters like the US, China and India come on board.

So come on USA, China and India - Make Good Choices !

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Switch Onto Savings US Style!

Hello My Friends,

I read with interest that the USA is planning to carry out a plan to have a time switch this year that is set to try and save energy.
Switching to summer time early should help cut energy consumption

The US has switched to daylight saving time, or summer time, three weeks earlier than usual to cut fuel consumption and help the environment.

At 0200 EST (0700 GMT) clocks moved forward by an hour, shifting an hour of daylight from morning to evening.

Summer time will last until 4 November, a week later than in previous years.

The extra four weeks are expected to help cut energy consumption, as demand falls for electricity in the evening if it is still light.

The measure was signed into law two years ago as part of the Energy Policy Act which aims to encourage new energy technologies.

Representatives Edward Markey and Fred Upton, who sponsored the amendment to the original bill, said it was expected to save $4.4bn in energy bills by 2020 and avoid the need to build more than three large electric power plants.

They said it also would save 279 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and avoid nearly 10.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

"The change in the beginning of daylight saving time is just one step towards making our country more efficient in its usage of energy and conscious of our environment," Mr Markey said on Wednesday.

"Not only will Americans have more daylight at their disposal for four additional weeks in the year, but we will also see wide energy saving, less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity.

"Ultimately, daylight saving just brings a smile to everybody's faces."

Critics of the measure say the early switch may potentially lead to computer failures and cause minor headaches such as electronic calendars being out of synch, leading to missed appointments.

Canada also advances its clocks this weekend, with all provinces moving forward an hour, except Saskatchewan which does not observe Daylight Saving Time.

USA and Canada - time to Make Good Choices!

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Rains Help Cool Barrier Reef & Dead Sea At Risk

Gudday Mate! News from Australia

Batfish on Great Barrier Reef
Scientists fear global warming and pollution are harming the reef
Recent torrential rain and monsoons in northern Queensland have provided some rare relief for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The poor conditions have significantly reduced ocean temperatures, making them the coolest for up to five years.

It has been a blessing for the corals - usually in the summer they are at risk of serious scorching and bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living organism, stretching over more than 345,000 sq km.

It is also the world's most protected marine area.

It has been under threat from a combination of global warming, pollution and over-fishing.

Cooler water

Scientists had predicted that this summer would be a tough one for the reef. They feared that extreme heat would scorch the coral.

An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef (file image)
More than 2,000 km long
Home to 1,500 types of fish
Only living thing the naked eye can see from space

But recent storms that dumped torrential rain across much of Australia's north-east have brought some unexpected good news.

The region's normally warm seas have been stirred. Jeff Maynard of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says the water has become cooler.

"This year reef temperatures have shown that temperatures for the majority of the Great Barrier Marine Park are below the long-term averages we see for this time of year," he said.

"So right now we're considering bleaching risks to be low compared to bleaching years like '98 and 2002."

The future, however, still does not look good.

Researchers believe as the world's climate continues to change the bleaching of the coral will become increasingly common.

Bleaching occurs when unusually warm seas cause the organisms that make up the coral to die.

All that is left is a white limestone skeleton.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,500 types of fish and at more than 2,000 km long, it is the only living thing the naked eye can see from space.

Lets hope the rain continues and the bleaching is abated as a result. Theres also news from Israel about the Dead Sea. It would appear that the Dead Sea (the lowest point below regular sea level on Earth) is receding by over one metre per year. In fact when the Ein Gud Spa centre opened 20 years ago, visitors simply had to walk down a few steps into the Dead Sea waters. Now visitors have to take a train ride to step into the sea from the same spa building.

The Dead Sea is fed from the river Jordan which is now more like a trickle by the time it reaches the sea as much of the freshwater is now diverted for agricultural irrigation and drinking water by Syria, Jordan and part of the Lebanon.

Israel have proposed a "peace pipeline" to install a 200km water pipeline to feed water from the Red Sea to prop up the water levels in the Dead Sea. However there are huge potential impacts when considering this solution even before you start to consider the obvious environmental ones. The sea water in the Red Sea contains approx 4gms of salt per litre and the Dead Sea water has around 300mg of salt per litre - so effectively Red Sea water will desalinate the high levels of salt in the Dead Sea changing its balance and also its colour from bright cobalt blue to either brown or red!

I know nothing lives in the Dead Sea but these changes would still be a major environmental impact on another one of our world heritage sites. I guess theres not much choice - either it disappears in our lifetime or it stays but changes forever?

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Navarra Ole!

Hello There my Friends,

Hope you are enjoying the UK Spring weather - interesting to note that it has now been confirmed that the amount of air pollution decreases significantly at the weekend therefore making the weather generally better at the beginning of the week. So much for not liking Mondays !

Navarra embraces green energy
By Oana Lungescu
BBC News European Affairs correspondent, Navarra, northern Spain

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed - after tough negotiations - to boost the use of renewable energy in Europe to 20% over the next 13 years.

Wind turbines
Navarra is poor in mineral resources, but windy and sunny
At the moment, less than 7% of Europe's needs are covered by wind power, biofuels or solar energy.

But in the Navarra region, in north-eastern Spain, almost 70% of the electricity comes from the wind and the sun.

You do not have to look far in Navarra to see a windmill. Not the sort that Don Quixote fought, but the hi-tech turbines that provide much of the electricity here.

With no coal, oil or gas of its own, this mountainous region deliberately went for renewable energy in the late 1980s.

The first wind farm was built in full view of the regional capital Pamplona, so that people could get used to it.

Now, with some 1,100 windmills dotted all over Navarra, this tiny region is capable of generating more electricity from renewable sources than big EU countries like France or Poland.

Pioneering role

I had a privileged view from the top of one, 80 metres (250 feet) above ground. Going up in a cramped elevator in full security gear, you can feel the windmill swaying gently in the wind as you reach the full height.

Close up, the blades emerge slowly like huge white whales, revealing more rows of windmills on the horizon.

Computer controlled turbines
Wind turbines are computer-controlled
From a control centre outside Pamplona, a team of young operators can turn most mills on and off at the click of a mouse, not just in Spain, but as far as South Korea.

When it comes to renewable energy, companies based in Navarra, like Acciona Energia, are world leaders.

Company spokesman Jose Arieta says the company is looking to increase its exports to the United States, Australia, India and China.

"We are going to invest a lot of money in renewables in the world because we are convinced this is a very relevant sector for the future," Mr Arieta says.

Some 100,000 people work in the green energy sector in Spain, with 4,000 new jobs created in Navarra in the last decade.

As many people are now employed making turbines or solar panels as in car manufacturing, Navarra's traditional industry.

Growth sector

The regional industry secretary, Jose Javier Armendariz, says clean energy is overtaking cars as a source of growth.

Pamplona school
Schools in Pamplona have their own solar panels
"I don't know how many people will be employed in the car industry in the future, but I can't imagine our future without it," Mr Armendariz says. "However, right now our focus is the development of the renewable energy sector."

The regional government has been supporting wind and solar power for years, as do most people in Navarra.

But environmental activists from a local group called Gurelur, "Our Land" in the Basque language, are concerned.

One of their members, Amparo Lazaro, says Gurelur favours renewable energy, but not at any price.

"The wind parks they have built haven't been put in the right places, so they cause environmental damage, and there are too many for the environmental capacity of Navarra. We don't even recognise the landscape of our region any more," Ms Lazaro complains.

And the landscape keeps changing, although Navarra's focus is shifting from wind power, where national government subsidies are set to fall, to solar energy.

Cheap energy

An hour's drive from Pamplona, next to a village called Milagro, I went to see one of the biggest solar parks in Europe.

Mayor with solar panel
On sunny days, the sun doesn't cost us anything
Esteban Garijo, mayor of Milagro
On a field as vast as 50 football pitches, stand row upon row of huge solar panels, tilted to capture as much light as possible.

In a growing trend in Spain, the solar park is a co-operative, with 750 individual owners. The cost of a panel starts at 50,000 euros, but with a tax break from the regional government and a guaranteed annual income there is a long waiting list of willing buyers.

Milagro's mayor Esteban Garijo thinks it is a brilliant investment. "On sunny days, the sun doesn't cost us anything. So not only are we generating clean energy, but we're also making money."

Many in Navarra call it their "solar pension fund", Mr Garijo explains. "They buy a solar panel or two and hope to retire on the profits."

Every generation is playing along. Most schools in Pamplona have their own solar panel, provided by the local town hall.

Every day, the children can learn how much electricity they have fed into the grid and how to save more energy. "We're looking after the Earth", says Suyapa Eguaras, aged 11.

"We are reducing carbon dioxide emissions. At home, I'm also doing other things, like recycling or saving water."

It is the sort of determination and clarity of purpose that Europe's leaders will require in plentiful supply, if they are to take the bold steps needed to fight climate change.

I am working with a North West County Council to help improve the thermal efficiency of some of their large childrens' centres by introducing some traditional and renewable energy technologies to each site. The potential measures that can be introduced include solar thermal, solar PV to generate electricity for the building, ground source heat pumps for space heating and some water heating and possibly wind turbines (but not roof mounted ones) working with some of the top product manufacturers and installers to ensure quality and performance.

I will post regular updates as these projects develop and include pictures of the developments that may also include Sun Pipes and Sola Vents from Monodraught that provide natural light and solar powered ventilation - brilliant products.

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend and please come back soon.

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Friends Of The Earth - Get Involved!

Hello My Friends - have you contacted your MP yet?

Friends Of The Earth - Make Good Choices!

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dr Rajendram - Results Of NHS Complaints Procedure

Hello My Friends

Following the complaint I made to Go To Doc Limited about Dr Rajendram and him prescribing me with anti biotics that contained pencillin despite me telling him on several occasions during the consultation and over the phone that I am allergic to penicillin, Go To Doc undertook an investigation using the standard NHS complaints procedure.

The local free newspaper has published a follow up story detailing that Dr Rajendram now faces an inquiry panel and is still suspended from his GP duties pending this inquiry which is good news for the patients of Go To Doc and Tameside Hospital.

I will post the details here soon.

On a lighter note, I have started to run again in preparation for the Great Run in Manchester in May and I am pleased to say my training is going well but I have suffered a huge tear in my chest wall muscle and the lining of my lungs is still inflamed as a result of the anaphylaxis so I have to take it slowly to ensure I allow my body chance to recover and I just hope that I don't have any permanent damage that might impede my running as I love it so much.

Enjoy your weekend and I look forward to your return visit again soon.

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

Drug Error By Dr Rajendram

Hello My Friends

Those of you who know me, also know how lucky I was not to die at the start of this year - heres the story that was published in the local free newspaper following my

‘Drug error could have killed me’

DEADLY dose: Jayne Taylor was left fighting for life after being prescribed antibiotics she was allergic to.DEADLY dose: Jayne Taylor was left fighting for life after being prescribed antibiotics she was allergic to.

A WOMAN allergic to penicillin was left fighting for life after a doctor allegedly gave her antibiotics containing the drug.

Jayne Taylor, 37, went into anaphylactic shock after being treated by the emergency GP. He worked for out-of-hours medical service Go To Doc.

She claims to have told him four times she was allergic to penicillin before it was prescribed.

The GP, Dr Saddanather Rajendram, has since been suspended pending an inquiry.

David Beckett, Go To Doc chief executive, said: "We have withdrawn any shifts available to Dr Rajendram due to the nature of the allegations. We are following our complaints procedure and are working to gather evidence from all parties involved."

Ms Taylor’s nightmare began on New Year’s Day when, unable to shake off a heavy cold and rattling cough, she phoned NHS Direct. A nurse put her in touch with Go To Doc in Stockport Road, Ashton — an out-of-hours surgery for patients in Tameside — and told her to await a call.

Dr Rajendram phoned and told Ms Taylor to attend the surgery immediately. She claims he asked if she was allergic to anything, to which she replied penicillin.

She arrived 30 minutes later, wheezing and short of breath.

She said: "After listening to my lungs he told me I had severe bronchitis."

Ms Taylor claims Dr Rajendram handed her two capsules to ease the symptoms overnight and made out a prescription for antibiotics.

Ms Taylor, who runs her own business, added: "The next day I began to deteriorate. By 3.30pm I felt like I was drowning and couldn’t breathe. Then I suddenly noticed on the box that the antibiotics were amoxicillin and contained penicillin. I was aghast.

"I phoned my parents who were there in minutes but by then I had collapsed on the stairs and was turning blue."

Paramedics arrived and immediately injected her with a lifesaving shot of adrenaline. They confirmed she was suffering from anaphylactic shock. She was taken to hospital and put on steroids, adrenaline, anti-histamine and oxygen. She added: "I’m slowly recovering but if this had happened to an elderly person I doubt they’d have survived."

First published by the Tameside Advertiser

From Your Very Lucky To Be Alive Friend The Energy Angel

Hello There My Friends

I hope you well and enjoying our Spring like weather - its lovely hearing the birds singing in the mornings. We have a blackbird that sits on our TV aerial and sings his little heart out - its beautiful.

News of a political nature - Michael Meacher who I met when the Oldham MBC Fuel Poverty Strategy was launched in 2005 and who is a keen advocate of energy efficiency has entered the Labour leader race. The BBC reports that the veteran MP and former minister has launched a challenge to Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership and promises a left-wing agenda.
Michael Meacher announces his intention to stand
Mr Meacher said there should be a debate on Labour's future directio

Mr Meacher called for Trident nuclear weapons to be scrapped, huge investment in renewable energy, curbs on City bonuses and nationalisation of the railways.

Michael claims to have enough MPs' support to get onto the ballot and insists he has a chance of winning.

Fellow left-wing leadership contender John McDonnell said he would fight on.

"We have been expecting Michael's announcement for over nine months. It doesn't change things," said Mr McDonnell, who began his campaign last July.

Government critic

There is also speculation Mr Meacher's challenge will flush out a Blairite leadership contender from the Cabinet ranks.

Mr Meacher is one of Labour's longest-serving MPs, having had ministerial jobs in the Wilson and Callaghan governments of the 1970s.

Since being sacked as an environment minister in 2003, he has been a vocal critic of the government, particularly on its environment policy.

It is not sustainable to continue as America's glove puppet
Michael Meacher

The Oldham West and Royton MP was flanked by Ian Gibson and Kelvin Hopkins, two prominent backbenchers from the Labour left, as he launched what he said was a "centre-left" bid for the leadership.

He said Labour members deserved a say in the party's future direction and insisted it was not a "foregone conclusion" that Gordon Brown would be the next prime minister.

He called for a new direction on foreign policy, which he said should be "based on fundamental British interests, not subservience to the US".

He added: "It is not sustainable to continue as America's glove puppet."

'Biggest mistake'

He also called for the renationalisation of the railways, a "profound change" in our way of life to combat climate change, and he said the national minimum wage should be raised to £7 an hour.

He also hit back at criticism from Mr McDonnell over his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"The biggest political mistake of my life was over the Iraq war. I believed the prime minister when he said there was a growing and imminent threat," said Mr Meacher.

It's a pity because, frankly, he's going to get humiliated
Stephen Pound

He said some of Mr Blair's comments in the run up to war "stretched the truth".

Mr Meacher's campaign claims to have the backing of "about 30" Labour MPs, although he said he was not prepared to name them at this stage.

Leadership candidates need 45 signatures from Labour MPs to get on to the ballot.

But Labour MP Stephen Pound, who described Mr Meacher as a "faintly ridiculous" figure, said he would be surprised if the veteran left-winger managed to get the required support.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
The chancellor is the favourite to succeed Mr Blair

"It's a pity because, frankly, he's going to get humiliated," said the Ealing North MP.

"I suspect he knows that, if he put his ego to one side a bit he would realise that."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said some Labour MPs would welcome a contest and Gordon Brown himself might prefer a contest to a "coronation", as it would give his leadership more of a mandate.

But asked whether a contest would be in the best interests of the Labour Party on Thursday, Mr Brown replied: "That's up to other people".

He welcomed any debate about the future of the party and said: "The key thing is making our country great in the future by making the right decisions now."

I have asked Michael to come on board with our campaign, but he's chosen to go his own way
Left-wing leadership challenger John McDonnell

Mr McDonnell, who will be competing with Mr Meacher for left-wing Labour backing, said he had the support of about 22 MPs, and would not drop out of the race.

He said Labour members would judge the candidates on their records, and while he had voted against tuition fees, the Iraq war, privatisation and benefit cuts, Mr Brown and Mr Meacher had consistently voted for them.

"I have asked Michael to come on board with our campaign, but he's chosen to go his own way. Now let's have the debate on policies and the election and let the members decide," he said.

Asked whether his challenge might split the left and leave neither able to take on the chancellor, Mr Meacher said he did not think Mr McDonnell could get the necessary number of nominations.

"I firmly believe that I can, and to that extent, I am putting the left into the ring and I think and hope I am uniting the left rather than splitting it."

I guess Mr McDonnell or his supporters wouldnt necessarily agree?

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel