Energy news round up: pre-pay customers overpaying energy bills by nearly £390m per year, and more

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This week's energy round-up includes the news that prepayment energy customers are collectively overpaying on their energy bills by nearly £390 million a year in the UK. Meanwhile, the world's largest CRYOBattery has been awarded a £10 million Government grant and construction in Manchester is due to start later this year. Here's our round-up of the week's top energy news...

Pre-payment customers overpaying energy bills by nearly £390m per year 

New research by comparison site CompareTheMarket suggests that over 4 million customers on pre-payment energy tariffs are paying an average of £94 more per year than they would with a standard credit meter. That's a combined over-payment of more than £389 million annually. The findings show that the difference in cost between different types of tariffs are particularly significant for those on lower incomes.

Currently, there are 283 fixed tariffs available to non-prepayment customers, who can run an energy comparison to find the best energy deal for their home. By comparison, pre-payment customers have just four fixed-rate tariffs to choose from, and only 45 variable prepayment tariffs - compared to 91 for customers on a credit-based standard variable tariff.

World’s largest liquid air battery to be built in Manchester this year

Independent power station developer Carlton Power is to collaborate with technology company Highview Power on a project to build the world’s first commercial-scale liquid-air energy storage plant in Manchester. 

The 50MW/250MWh CRYOBattery will be built using a £10 million Government grant, and will be able to power 200,000 homes for five hours a day when it's completed. As well as supplying power to the National Grid, the facility will also help integrate renewable energy infrastructure by providing long duration storage for the National Grid, helping to ensure energy security during blackouts and other disruptions. 

“This revolutionary new CRYOBattery facility will form a key part of our push towards net zero, bringing greater flexibility to Britain’s electricity grid and creating green collar jobs in Greater Manchester,” said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng. 

”Projects like these will help us realise the full value of our world-class renewables, ensuring homes and businesses can still be powered by green energy, even when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing.”

Sheffield University scientists awarded funding for development of new clean energy materials 

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been awarded funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to help develop new carbon-based materials that could improve the ability of solar panels to capture solar energy.

These improvements in solar energy capture depend on the ability to control the behaviour of particles called 'excitons', which are formed when light is absorbed by molecules.  

If successful, the £7.25 million project will transform approaches to solar energy production, and could have wide-ranging implications for consumer electronics. It would also help the Government reach its target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

New campaign urges UK Government to end subsidies for biomass 

A coalition of environmental groups has launched the Cut Carbon Not Forests campaign, calling for an end to subsidies that support the burning of whole trees for electricity generation by biomass power plants. 

The campaign builds on concern by groups such as Biofuelwatch and the American Dogwood Alliance that UK and European biomass subsidies are having a detrimental effect on forests in the southern US. 

Currently, the UK is the largest consumer in Europe of electricity from biomass, supported by subsidies of more than £1 billion from the Government.

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Robin Whitlock

Robin is a freelance journalist specialising in renewable energy, environmental issues, climate change and transport. He's written for Renewable Energy Magazine for almost a decade, covering all sub-sectors of the global renewable industry - from onshore and offshore wind, solar PV and solar thermal energy, to biomass, anaerobic digestion (AD), geothermal, energy efficiency and smart technology, electric vehicles and hybrids, and much more.