Taxpayers to suffer ‘£18bn bill’ due to Government’s failure to insulate, analysis claims

The Cameron government’s decision to cut support for home insulation has led to an £18billion bill for taxpayers nine years later, analysis claims. Back in 2012, the UK successfully delivered 2.3 million loft or cavity wall insulation installations before the shift in policy direction saw uptake rates drop by a whopping 90 percent. According to the ECIU, had these energy improvement measures continued to be supported, 10 million homes could have been upgraded in the following decade — almost four-tenths of the nation’s housing stock. These homes are now set to cost more to heat over the next two years than they need have been, increasing the eventual bill to the taxpayer that will result from new PM Liz Truss fixing rising utility prices via the Energy Price Guarantee scheme.

The ECIU claims: “Had these improvements been made, the upgraded homes would be using 15–20 percent less gas, the total gas demand from the overall housing stock would have been almost 10 percent lower than today.”

This, they said, would have made the average household gas bill “£350–400 lower from October, when the price freeze kicks in”.

They added: “With almost 24 million homes using gas, this could have saved [the] Treasury and taxpayers around £9billion in the first year of the Energy Price Guarantee and, if gas prices stay high as some experts have predicted, £18billion over the scheme’s current two-year duration.”

According to the ECIU, meaningful improvements in household insulation can typically be delivered for just £1,000 per household.

The ECIU added: “Had [the] Treasury funded the upgrades, then it could have recouped the investment and saved taxpayers up to £8 billion over the two-year price freeze.

“Or, the Government could have chosen to set the price freeze at a lower level, saving energy bill payers an average of up to £350–400 a year.”

The researchers’ calculations suggest the homes that would otherwise have been insulated would have already saved £400 by now — and £600 more come the end of 2024.

These savings, they added, would have been on top of the savings made by permitting a price freeze at a lower level.

ECIU Head of Analysis Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin said: “Cutting the green levies on bills during the last cost-of-living crisis had come back to bite the Treasury in the coffers.

“If it had instead shifted insulation programmes on to the Government balance sheet it would not only have made its money back, but saved the taxpayer up to £8billion as well as trimming hundreds of pounds off the energy bills of millions of homes.

“Taxpayers and bill payers alike will now be wondering why insulation has not really featured in Government plans to tackle the gas crisis, particularly when cold homes cost the NHS £3billion a year.”

He concluded: “What happens next time we have a cost-of-living crisis?”

Polling undertaken by the ECIU back in July this year found that 85 percent of Conservative Party members presently support investment in and incentives towards home insulation and other energy efficiency measures for both homeowners and landlords.

Furthermore, analysis by ECIU researchers suggests an investment by the Treasury of £1,000 per insulating-needing household now, ahead of the price freeze, would pay for itself come the next election — alongside saving the households in question £600 over the same period.

This level of investment is, on average, enough to boost the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of a house from the current average of band D to the Government’s target of band C.

The ECIU did note that “some progress” around insulation has been made by the Government over recent years.

They said: “The Energy Company Obligation [is] helping an extra 110,000 low-income households each year, including by installing solid wall insulation to give larger savings for housing with worse EPC ratings.

“This is particularly important in areas in need of levelling-up, including the 37 of the 40 most marginal constituencies that have below average housing energy efficiency.”

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  • 15 минут назад 04.10.2022Science
    Get a Fire TV Stick 4K for just £29.99 – plus 10 more Amazon devices deals to shop today

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    Amazon has dropped unmissable discounts on their bestselling Echo, Blink and Fire devices ahead of their Prime Early Access Sale.

    Amazon has announced it will run its first-ever Prime Early Access Sale ahead of Black Friday, spanning 48 hours from 11 October through 12 October.

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  • 4 часа, 3 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Smart meter glitch sends energy bills skyrocketing and households into ‘complete panic’

    Households across the country were left in shock and panic after a glitch in their smart meters following Ofgem’s new price cap update showed that they had used a staggering amount of electricity overnight. It happened after midnight on October 1, which is when Ofgem raised its price cap on household energy bills to £2,500 a year. Before the Government’s intervention in freezing the bills at £2,500 for the next few years, industry regulator Ofgem had raised the price cap to a staggering £3,549 per year, which would thrust millions of families into fuel poverty. Many families who paid for their energy using a prepayment meter were shocked after waking up on Saturday morning to see the new astronomical prices.

    Energy suppliers including Scottish Power, SSE, Eon and Octopus admitted that there were some issues with the smart prepayment meter displays on October 1, warning consumers that it may take about 24 hours to show the correct prices.

    However, many families took to social media to express their concern after waking up to see the staggering energy bills that they had somehow racked up overnight.

    One mum took to a budgeting Facebook page to tell of her “complete panic” after she topped up her meter to find she was still low on credit, according to ChronicleLive.

    She said: “Got up this morning electric on smart meter beeping £4 on there. Put £20 on and beeping still, £4.17 on there. Put another £20 on, still beeping, shows £6.17.

    “Checked and it says standard daily charge £38.27. The only things on are the fridge-freezer. How long can I turn them off without things spoiling? In a complete panic.”

    Meanwhile, another user said: “I hope its just a glitch. Gas is OK, electricity topped up £20 yesterday down to £2.38 already.”

    Another Briton wrote: “I had 19p on my electric and emergency was flashing. I topped up £25.00. It topped up my metre by £2.50!! My new balance is £2.69. That won’t last the weekend and that was my money for electric!”

    This glitch left energy companies trying to calm customers by reassuring them of their smart meter readings and usage, with Scottish Power telling customers via its app: “We’re sorry we are currently experiencing technical difficulties which are impacting how we display the energy consumption information in your account so we have temporarily switched it off.”

    SSE told customers: “We’re writing to let you know that your In-home display will briefly show the wrong daily use amounts when your energy prices change on 1 October. It’s a small issue that will correct itself in 24 hours.”

    One customer said: “Went to bed with 215.00 credit woke up to 20.15 left. Husband switched smart metre off and it corrected itself…”

    This glitch even affected households who paid for energy via direct debit, with some reporting on social media of displays that showing an eye popping usage of tens of thousands of pounds over the weekend.

    One Briton, who received a bill of £40,266.34 through her smart meter, joked that she must be supplying the energy for the whole of Britain.

    For average households, the amount they pay per kilowatt hour of electricity it uses has soared to 34p from the already record 28p that families have been paying since April.

    Meanwhile, under the new price cap, gas prices are going from 7p to 10p per kilowatt hour, putting the energy bills for a typical household at around £2,500 a year.

    Ofgem urged households to take a picture of their meter readings on or around October 1st, adding: “If you’re planning to submit your meter reading by October 1, you can submit it a reasonable time after.”

    Meanwhile, the Charities National Energy Action and the Food Foundation has warned that as a result of the soaring energy bills, the number of households in fuel poverty has increased from 4.5 million a year ago to 6.7 million now.

  • 4 часа, 3 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Britain on the brink of fresh Covid wave as new variants to bring ‘NHS to its knees’

    As cases of Covid-19 surge across the country, experts have warned that a lack of surveillance has left the country flying “blind” to new variants of the virus, some of which could dodge immunity. They warn that the UK is already at the start of a new “devastating” wave of the virus that has sent the entire country into lockdown for months at a stretch since March 2020. While life has largely returned to normal over the past year following a major vaccination drive, experts warned that there is currently inadequate surveillance of new variants, which when combined with a decrease in testing could hamper the NHS’ ability to tackle a new wave.

    According to early data, new subvariants of Omicron have been “evolving around the immunity” that was built up over the past year through vaccinations and Covid infections.

    Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Covid ZOE app, told The Independent, that as the winter approaches, these new “immune-evasive” subvariants could cause the UK “real problems”, particularly with the NHS “already on its knees”.

    Meanwhile, University of Warwick virologist, Professor Lawrence Young, warned that two Omicron subvariants – BA.2.75.2 derived from BA.2, and BQ1.1 derived from BA.5 – had shown evidence of being able to evade immunity from the virus, which was causing concern among the health experts.

    He said: “The biggest concern we’re seeing is that in early data these variants are starting to cause a slight increase in infections. In a way, this was to be expected but it does demonstrate that we’re not out of the woods yet at all with this virus, sadly.”

    He warned that while these new variants were slightly different in how they had evolved to reach the same changes needed to escape the body’s immune system.

    He said: “What we’re finding is the virus is evolving around the immunity that’s been built up through vaccines and countless infections people have had.”

    These warnings come after the latest figures revealed that the UK had a sharp 14 percent rise in Covid cases in the week ending September 17.

    During the latest survey, approximately 1.1 million people had tested positive for the virus, making it the first time testing figures have risen since mid-July, which was when the summer wave had peaked, as the Government began facing calls to bring back pandemic-era restrictions.

    The experts warned that a lack of surveillance around the new subvariants, combined with factors like the lack of free tests, had created conditions for the “perfect storm” of another Covid spike.

    Prof. Young said: “We’ve really taken our eye off the ball with Covid tests. People are going to get various infections over the winter but won’t know what they are because free tests aren’t available – it’s going to be a problem.

    “Another angle is the economic pressure. If people do feel poorly they’re not likely to take time off work. You have a perfect storm here, really, of inadequate surveillance, people not coming forward for vaccination and the economic situation.”

    As cases surge, various institutions like hospitals may return to pandemic-era restrictions like mask mandates, as the NHS Trust ordered visitors to a number of hospitals in Essex to wear face masks.

    Giles Thorpe, the trust’s chief nurse and director of infection prevention and control, said the need to “enhance infection prevention and control measures” was due to a rise in coronavirus cases.

    He said: “That is why we are asking visitors to do their bit again now and help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our hospitals by wearing a surgical face mask when they visit.

    “We appreciate face masks are no longer required in many areas of our day-to-day lives, but our hospitals are not the same as a supermarket or a restaurant.

    “Many of our patients are already extremely unwell and could be at higher risk of serious illness if they pick up COVID-19. If you cannot wear a surgical face mask, we can offer you a visor as an alternative.”

  • 4 часа, 3 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Elon Musk plans to sell humanoid robots ‘replacing human workers’ in under a decade

    Tech billionaire Elon Musk has said he wants to mass produce Tesla’s AI-powered Optimus humanoid robots, the machines that could one day replace human workers, and sell them for under £18,000 within three to five years. It comes after he unveiled the robot prototypes at Tesla’s office in Palo Alto, California, on Friday. Mr Musk has previously said the robots, which Tesla has reportedly been developing for over a decade, could one day replace human workers in the production line in Tesla factories. The world’s richest man has also said that these Optimus bots could also one day surpass Tesla’s revenue raked in via electric vehicle (EV) sales.

    Mr Musk has said the innovations could help to push Tesla to the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) which the bots are powered by, making the firm more than a company which just manufactures “cool cars”.

    Speaking at the unveiling at Tesla’s AI Day presentation,.Mr Musk said: “There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it.” He later added: “I think Optimus is going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind-blowing.”

    and he claimed that the would cost “less than a car”. But currently, the prototypes are not perfect, with plenty more to be done before the robot helpers function to their full potential. Mr Musk said: “There’s still a lot of work to be done to refine Optimus and prove it. I think Optimus is going to be incredible in five or 10 years, like mind-blowing.”

    The prototype was wheeled on stage and people were then shown a video of the Optimus bot carrying out simple tasks like watering plants, carrying boxes and lifting metal bars.

    Mr Musk has argued that the robots could even lead to a “fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it”. In fact, the Tesla CEO envisions a world in which AI-powered humans could carry out a whole range of tasks to help humans with everyday life, from caring for the elderly to posing as domestic assistants.

    Named after the famous Transformers series, it is expected that the boost will initially perform the more boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around at Tesla factories.

    Speaking at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting last month, Mr Musk said: “It will, I think, turn the whole notion of what’s an economy on its head, at the point at which you have no shortage of labour.”

    At the previous Tesla AI Day last August, Mr Musk said: “In the future, physical work will essentially be a choice. If you want to do it you can, but you won’t need to do it. It has profound implications for the economy, given that the economy at its foundational level is labour.”

    But so far, existing humanoid robots on the market are “missing a brain”, according to Mr Musk, meaning they do not have the ability to solve problems on their own. He claimed his own Optimus robot on the other hand would be an “extremely capable robot” that Tesla hopes to make in the millions.

    For instance, he claimed that his bots will have conversational capabilities and feature safeguards to avoid any wrongdoing by the machine.

    While Mr Musk, who is also CEO of SpaceX, which makes rockets that he wants to one day take humans to Mars on, is optimistic about the potential of his robots, some experts are more sceptical.

    Will Jackson, CEO of robotics company Engineered Arts, told The Verge: “We still have fundamental robotics technology gaps that need to be solved before we will see ‘human level’ anything.

    “Maybe Tesla [has] solved it — if they have, it will be an absolute game changer — however, it feels unlikely as it would be a great leap forward out of nowhere.”

    But Telsa’s exciting announcement has come at what appears to be a difficult moment for Mr Msuk. According to reports, the world’s richest man’s wealth is set to plummet as much as $8 billion (£7.14billion) when US markets open today.

    It is expected to see an eye-watering share price drop of around $54billion (£48billion) from its market cap after Tesla’s delivery numbers were far lower than what analysts expected.

    According to Refinitiv data, the firm was forecast to sell around 359,000 vehicles between July and September this year, but produced over 365,000 and delivered only 343,000. The company blamed the shortfall on the boosted completion of cars towards the end of the quarter.

  • 4 часа, 3 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Liz Truss to unveil huge North Sea gas boost as UK in desperate bid to slash bills

    The UK is poised to fast-track the approval process for gas fields in the North Sea, as part of a bid to accelerate domestic production of gas. It comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparks fears of energy shortages. Even though Britain does not import much gas from Russia, industry regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK is at “significant risk” of gas shortages”, particularly if Vladimir Putin cuts crucial supplies to mainland Europe. In an effort to boost domestic gas production to stave a cold winter, regulators in the UK will prioritise new gas fields in the North Sea, as a new licensing round is set to be announced later this week.

    Andy Samuel, the outgoing chief executive of the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), said that he would fast-track applications for discoveries of gas reserves in the southern North Sea, as part of a process that would grant over 100 permits in the region, mostly focused on exploration.

    The Government has been scrambling to secure more domestic energy supplies in response to Russia cutting supplies to Europe, which has sent wholesale gas prices skyrocketing.

    Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Samuel noted that “[In] these unusual times, security of supply is a concern,” adding that the NSTA would do “anything we can do to bolster domestic production”.

    However, he warned that the new licenses would make a little dent in the UK’s overall reliance on imports, which experts predict will continue to grow over the next three decades.

    Mr Samuel, who is set to step down from the regulator in December after serving for eight years, added that these permits would likely only make a difference “around the edges”.

    He said that this is because the North Sea was one of the world’s oldest oil and gas production regions in the world, having been first produced in the 1970s.

    He said: “I think it’s unlikely, given it’s a mature basin and the geology is well-known, that we’re suddenly going to have a situation where we are significantly growing production again.”

    This statement is a major blow to Prime Minister Liz Truss’ ambitions to harness further oil and gas reserves from the North Sea, which the Government hopes will slash bills by reducing the reliance on expensive gas imports.

    However, Mr Samuel added the UK could be producing fresh gas supplies in as little as 12 to 18 months from recent discoveries like the Pegasus West field, off the North Yorkshire coast, which would get its licence soon.

    However, production has been falling, with domestic oil and gas plummeting by 17 percent compared to the previous year, extracting about 45 million tonnes of oil and 29 billion cubic metres of gas. According to predictions from the NSTA, this figure will fall to 30 percent by the end of the decade.

    The UK’s push to produce more domestic fossil fuels was slammed by climate activists, who argued that this was incompatible with the country’s legally binding net zero commitments.

    Mr Samuel rejected that notion, noting that new domestic fossil fuel would replace LNG imports from countries like Qatar and the US, which generally emit more greenhouse gas as they are shipped over large distances.

    While North Sea oil and gas reserves are declining steadily, the region is also rich in wind power, which the country is also looking to harness by constructing offshore wind farms, and “floating” offshore wind, which is built deeper out into the ocean, and harnesses stronger winds.

    In August, Hornsea 2, which is officially the world’s largest wind farm, became fully operational, generating power about 55 miles off the coast of Yorkshire.

    The wind farm will now generate enough electricity to power about 1.3 million homes, which is enough to run a city the size of Manchester.

    Britain is making a massive investment in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind power in the North Sea. Renewable energy has gone from 11 percent of the country’s energy mix to 40 percent, with offshore wind making up the bulk of it.

  • 4 часа, 3 минуты назад 04.10.2022Science
    Nobel Prize 2022 awarded to Svante Paabo for cracking ‘impossible’ code in human evolution

    Svante Paabo, a Swedish researcher, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work studying human evolution. The Nobel Committee hailed the paleogeneticist for achieving what they said was a seemingly impossible task. Mr Paabo defied odds and cracked the genetic code of one of mankind’s extinct relatives- the Neanderthals. He also made the “sensational discovery” of a previously unknown early human relative known as Denisova. His research helped scientists understand mankind’s evolutionary history, exploring how modern homo sapiens migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

    This research into the ancient genes has major significance for present-day humans as well, helping researchers understand how our immune system reacts to infections.

    In a press release, the Nobel Prize Committee said: “Pääbo’s seminal research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline; paleogenomics.

    “By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.”

    Dr Svante Pääbo is a Swedish geneticist specialising in the field of evolutionary genetics and has worked extensively on the genetic code of Neanderthals, which lived between about 130,000 and 40,000 years ago

    He was one of the founders of paleogenetics, a discipline where researchers use the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations.

    Early in his career, Dr Pääbo became fascinated by the possibility of utilising modern genetic methods to study the DNA of Neanderthals. However, he found that contamination of DNA over thousands of years had made such a method tremendously challenging.

    Thus as a postdoctoral student with Allan Wilson, a pioneer in the field of evolutionary biology, he began to develop methods to study DNA from Neanderthals, a project that took several decades to complete.

    In 1997, Dr Paabo and his colleagues reported their successful sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, originating from a specimen found in Feldhofer grotto in the Neander valley.

    In 2010, he accomplished the seemingly impossible and published the first Neanderthal genome sequence. Comparative analyses also proved that the most recent common ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens lived around 800,000 years ago.

    Following that discovery, Dr Paabo and his team could now investigate the relationship between Neanderthals and modern-day humans from different parts of the world.

    Comparative analyses showed that DNA sequences from Neanderthals were more similar to sequences from contemporary humans originating from Europe or Asia than to contemporary humans originating from Africa.

    This proved that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens interbred during their millennia of coexistence. In modern-day humans of European or Asian descent, approximately 1-4 percent of the genome originates from the Neanderthals.

    In another major discovery in 2008, Dr Paabo and his researchers discovered a 40,000-year-old finger bone in the Denisova cave in the southern part of Siberia.

    The bone contained exceptionally well-preserved DNA, which the researchers studied, and discovered a sequence unique compared to all known sequences from Neanderthals and present-day humans.

    This new species of early human was given the Denisova, and comparisons with sequences from contemporary humans from different parts of the world showed that gene flow had also occurred between the species and Homo sapiens.

    This relationship was first seen in populations in Melanesia and other parts of South East Asia, where individuals carry up to 6 percent Denisova DNA.

    Dr Paabo’s discovered paved way for a new understanding of mankind’s evolutionary history. As during the time homo sapiens migrated out of Africa, the expansion of Homo sapiens outside Africa and their migration east, they not only encountered and interbred with Neanderthals, but also with Denisovans.

    Linda Partridge, Biological Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society said, “I warmly welcome the news that Svante Pääbo, a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

    “Pääbo’s pioneering research has contributed to our understanding of what makes us uniquely human. Not only did he sequence the genome of the Neandertal, allowing for the reconstruction of the recent evolutionary history of our species, but he also discovered a previously unknown hominin group, Denisovans.

    “His findings allowed for the important realisation that Neandertals contributed DNA to present-day humans who live outside Africa.”

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Science Taxpayers to suffer '£18bn bill' due to Government’s failure to insulate, analysis claims