With the latest rises in energy prices in the UK there’s been a renewed focused on what the government should do to control spiraling household costs. Regardless of the simple facts related to how much the UK public actually pays for energy compared to other countries, the general media firestorm is directed at the profits of the Big 6 providers.

So as lowly consumers, is there anything you can do? Why yes, yes there is.

1) Get a green supplier. 

This is incredibly easy to do and arguably is more effective than sticking solar panels on your own roof since you get to take advantage of economies of scale. You can do this because of the glorious free market that is the energy sector. There may be quite a few things wrong with the UK energy market, but voting with your wallet is the simplest way to make sure that you are only paying companies you support and are using* the energy you believe you should.

Oddly enough, with all of the recent price spikes in the Big 6, some suppliers (such as Ecotricity) may actually be cheaper than your existing brown fuel supplier. Choosing a green supplier, or a green tariff if you can’t switch for some reason, probably will not cost much more, but it will easily make the biggest difference in building demand for new sources.

*Note that using a green energy supplier does not mean the specific electricity coming through your wall is green. It works by a complicated system of credits and debits, the basic principle is that every kWh of energy you use is produced somewhere by a renewable source.

2) Invest in new energy development

There are a number of opportunities these days to invest in renewable energy… so you make money and not spend money. This is a great option regardless of whether you have a green tariff or are producing your energy because it just makes sense. The returns are reasonable, ethical and, most importantly, real.

Look around for a few options but the two that typically come to the top of my list are:

Abundance – a crowd sourcing renewable energy site

Triodos Renewable Energy Bonds and Triodos Renewables – a couple different options from the sustainable bank. The bond comes up around once a year.

3) Explore appropriate technologies

Finally, and I do say this last on purpose, look to see what options you have for installing technologies on your own home. This is the most risky of the lot because you’re more or less at the mercy of the advice you get.

A solar provider may over spec your roof, a heating supplier may advise on the wrong technology for your home, or you could just be trialing something that is unproven. Any one of these may mean that you aren’t going to get the return on your investment you think you are going to, but when done right this is still a great thing to do.

The cost of many of these technologies are dropping all the time and it could just be a matter of finding a good supplier to get you on your way. After all, becoming your own power station could help insulate you from power outages (for some of the day) and reduce the amount you’ll pay in the future on energy as costs continue to rise.

UK energy prices 2005 - 2013 (DECC energy price indices)

UK energy prices 2005 – 2013 (DECC energy price indices)