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The real net zero challenge. Electrify everything, especially Aga range cookers!

I’ve wanted to dig a bit deeper on net zero and how Aga range cookers are part of it for awhile. 

The energy markets are once again volatile. The worlds worst regimes are financed by oil and fossil fuels, this is quite enough reason for me to find an alternative even disregarding the environmental and financial costs. 

Recently of course the govt moved back the ban on petrol and diesel cars and eased off a bit on some of the more expensive net zero requirements. The truth is that abandoning plans for seven recycling bins per house will have no impact on net zero in the UK. Getting to net zero is about one thing, electrification. 

“... abandoning plans for seven recycling bins per house will have no impact on net zero in the UK. Getting to net zero is about one thing, electrification.” 

Here is our energy use by sector in the UK. The two biggest are transportation and domestic energy. 

Industrial energy use is declining as our manufacturing has shifted from energy intensive things like steel production into high value areas like aerospace. We still make a lot of stuff in the UK, we recently overtook France to become the world's 8th biggest manufacturer. Our workshop is part of that and we are proud to be a licensed member of Made in Britain! 

To reach net zero then we need to shift as much energy use as possible to electricity AND make sure the electricity used comes from low carbon (nuclear) and zero carbon (wind and solar) sources. 

We know how to electrify things is the good news. At Blake & Bull we convert nearly a thousand cookers a year to electric from oil and gas. Electric and hybrid (my personal choice!) cars are gaining in popularity and even heavy goods vehicles can be run on electric in some circumstances. 

Along with cookers heating at home is the majority of domestic energy consumption.

Heat pumps are 3 times more efficient than gas boilers at creating heat BUT electric costs 3 times as much so the ongoing financial savings are small.

Electric Aga range cookers are around 5 times more efficient than gas so the savings are significant but in the future we hope electricity will be much cheaper. This will turbocharge the move to heat pumps and electric Aga range cookers. 

There is a huge consultation underway now (REMA) about how we reform our energy markets. At present we pay for our electricity whatever the most expensive ‘bid’ to supply it at a given moment is. We have to do this to make sure we always have enough! The graph below shows how this works. 

In the future though different regions may have different pricing or renewables could be charged at lower rates. The overall aim is to get the cost of electricity down to power the shift to electricity.

Aga range cookers are a great demonstration of how you don’t need to ban things for change to be rapid! The cost savings vary but right now running a 4 oven electric Aga range cooker you’ll save roughly £1300 vs gas and £1700 vs oil over a year when you follow our best practice. When, and I really do think its when not if, electricity prices fall relative to gas the ‘great conversion’ to electric in the Aga world will accelerate once again! No need to ban oil Aga range cookers!

“The cost savings vary but right now running a 4 oven electric Aga range cooker you’ll save roughly £1300 vs gas and £1700 vs oil over a year.”

We need better grid infrastructure to power all this, that is coming with huge investments in connections and projects like X-Links (sunshine from Morcocco imported by massive cable!). 

I actually don’t think it’s about money, thats available, it’s more about planning reform! It takes too long to get projects approved and jump through all the hoops. We want to upgrade our supply on the farm so we can export more solar energy from our panels. In 18 months of trying we still don’t have a firm cost or date. Planning issues, materials shortages and not enough skilled people have all been blamed! 

We are all in on electric here at Blake & Bull. We do service & repair fossil cookers we only install electric. We’ve invested over the past two years to triple our size, train technicians and control our processes. We now complete almost every part of the process to remanufacture and install Aga range cookers.

I’m very proud of the small part we are playing in the shift to living a life full of clean renewable energy. I don’t want a dark, cold future of ultra efficiency and high energy prices. I want a future of warm bright kitchens powered by cheap clean electricity. I want it now!

Matthew Bates

Matthew Bates

Matthew is from a farming family near Bath and a graduate of King's College London who decided not to follow the 'standard' path into banking or the law. He has been working with these fabulous cookers in some form or another since 2003. Matthew runs Blake and Bull from beautiful Bradford on Avon, near Bath. Alf the golden retriever makes sure the working day finishes at 6pm sharp - dog walk time!