Posted: 18 March 2014
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The Great Energy Race
The Great Energy Race

National Grid employee, James Murnaghan, takes on the Observer Ethical Awards challenge to become the nation's energy saving "bright spark".

"We are strong believers that energy saving is a win-win and can work for anyone."

James Murnaghan, National Grid employee

Energy saving is a way of life for the Murnaghan household. With a keen interest in environmental issues and through his work in Sustainable Procurement at National Grid, James Murnaghan is a strong believer that energy saving is a win-win and can work for anyone. In the first of a series of posts, he explains why he has joined the Observer Ethical Awards – Great Energy Race. 

Over the years we’ve taken many conscious decisions to invest in efficient appliances, solar panels and ways to manage our energy usage to reap long term benefits in lower energy bills. But as a family with two young children, it’s not always easy to change our behaviour towards saving energy.


So after entering the Observer Ethical Awards – Great Energy Race, we’ve had notification we are one of twenty competitors battling it out to save energy at home for four weeks during March.

Our challenge is to find innovative ways of managing and reducing our energy usage and share our experiences, hints and tips with others over the coming weeks.

It all started earlier this week with a quick survey of the house (a typical 1950s semi) to review the energy consumption of our key appliances and light bulbs in order to equate the consumption to cost so that we focus on the areas of largest benefit.

Understanding your energy consumption is the best way to begin to manage it. Unfortunately the bills produced by energy suppliers just don’t give householders the right level of detail so they can take decisive action.

Part of the challenge is changing our behaviour and, to make it interesting and fun, we’ve put in place a sticker chart for our girls so that we can to explain to them the connection between energy saving actions and the number of stickers they put on the chart every day. It’s never too early to start learning about energy saving.

For the grown-ups, we’ve been using the Meter Readings iPhone app (by Graham Haley). This great little free app allows you to track water, electricity and gas consumption using your own meter readings as often as you like to create some fascinating little graphs.

Once you have a grasp on consumption, the next step is to understand how much you are spending per unit of electricity or kWh to understand which energy reductions will have the most positive impact on your bill.


Some of the key changes we’ve been investigating seem to reap a pretty good payback with ongoing reductions in energy bills. Some examples include:

Before Halogen Spotlights = 50 Watts switched on 24 hours a day > After LED Spotlights = 5 Watts – 90% saving – £10 per bulb installed per year

Before DVD player on standby and Wi-Fi receiver = 10 Watts on 24 hours a day > After Energy saving power strip that switches devices off when TV is off – 85% saving – £10 per year

So the changes have relatively small financial benefits, but if you consider that you might have several Halogen bulbs in your house you can multiply up the savings several times.

We’ll be back with a further update later in our challenge as we begin to install some energy saving measures and hopefully see some great benefits that we can recommend to others looking to take control of their energy bills.

Gas innovation in full flow