All posts by Dom

Switching suppliers regularly might help save costs on your energy bills

There is plenty happening on the energy front currently in the UK and while it seems majority of households are not too happy about paying the additional ‘green tax’ that is levied upon them, government is trying to get some sort of leash on the big six energy suppliers.

Some of the moves seem to be an attempt to pacify the ’voters’ and others seem like they can genuinely help.

The new proposed set of reforms call for more stringent laws that will fine the energy suppliers in case of both wrong billing and delayed services. And a law that forces firms to enable a change in suppliers in less than 3 weeks will also help make life easier for the consumer.

But if you have been always on one single supplier and haven’t really switched so far then all logic suggests that a change in supplier can save you up to £300 annually and that is indeed significant savings.

While all of the big six suppliers are upping the prices, they are also offering great discounts and offers for new customers. The idea here is to snap up consumers from rivals and generate the maximum revenue and this is where the smart consumer can make his savings.

Ideally you should be changing your suppliers once every 12 to 24 months and such contracts promise the best offers and great value to the consumer. Since suppliers seem more interested in acquiring new consumers, they will gladly give you broad discounts which will help cut down both electricity and gas bills. Both domestic and business electricity supply and gas availability largely depend on volatile international markets, but E.ON has already assured that there will be no increase in its energy prices for rest of 2012.

Look out for announcements like these along with online discounts to ensure that your energy bills do not burn a hole in your pocket that is deeper than it needs to be.

Meanwhile … which is the cheapest deal today?

As of writing this article, the cheapest standard plan (you pay an estimated amount on receipt of the bill) is EDF Energy’s Standard duel fuel tariff, that gets you to an average of £1,202 a year.

US government to get no special access to cloud data thanks to the Patriot Act

There have been many concerns regarding how the Patriot Act will influence privacy of individuals and how far can government have access to data and information, even without the knowledge of the individual.

But a new study has revealed that the Patriot Act itself does not give the US government any special access to cloud data and while many European companies harp about how their own privacy laws are stringent and safeguard the rights of citizens, have similar anti-terrorism laws that allow them an access to cloud data.

With the new laws, data center services, their location and their ability to keep cloud data secure has become a subject of great interest. An international law firm called Hogan Lovells released its findings after conducting study and research in 10 countries and the firm concluded that in all 10 countries firms were mandated to turn over cloud data to the government in case it was asked for.

The study showed that in 8 of the 10 countries firms turned over the cloud data to government even on informal requests with the US and Japan being exceptions while only German and US laws ensure that customers are informed when cloud data is handed over to government authorities.

While the study concluded that the Patriot Act did not give the US government any special privileges when it came to the access of cloud data, it is still most likely that others will be reluctant to hand over data to US cloud providers as the American government is perceived to be the most aggressive when it comes to acquiring data and the use of NSA’s powerful data acquiring and processing tools at its disposal.

Alumina Tax by Indonesia Risks China Shipments

Chinese domestic alumina prices are expected to rise as Indonesia is planning to implement a 20% export tax on bauxite. Due to the prevailing weak domestic aluminum market and high stock levels of imported alumina at Chinese ports, the rise in the price will be limited.

According to the new policy, the permits of the holders whoever fails to exhibit a commitment to invest in local refining facilities by 2014 will be cancelled. A rise in the ex-works alumina spot prices in eastern Shandong province and central Henan province from Yuan 2,700-2,720/mt to Yuan 2,750-2,800/mt is expected within the next
one or two months.

Going by what Shandong Refiners state, the new tax policy of 20% has increased the cost of alumina products by slightly more than Yuan 100/mt but the decision to increase a rise in the alumina prices by Yuan 100/mt will not be good enough, as it will be too much for the smelters.

The minimum expected price rise is Yuan 30-50/mt. An increase in the costs will naturally result an rise in the prices but no one expects a sudden leap in the price now when there are so much stocks of imported alumina at the ports.

The imported alumina inventory at Chinese ports is estimated around 700,000-800,000 mt and offers for these are around Yuan 2,700/mt currently, sources said.

Smelter and trade sources agree that there will be a rise in the domestic prices to around Yuan 2,750-2,800/mt in the near term. China will have to rely on more alumina imports if that happens.

Many of the alumina refineries are expecting a set back while many have closed down. As costs continue to rise more are expected to slow down.