- According to Off-Grid Net, there are around 150,000 people living off-grid in the UK
- The website estimates that 60,000 of them live in campervans, caravans and buses.
- Another 30,000 people are believed to be living on boats without a mains connection.
- Some 25,000 live in traditional homes, which are operated using self-sustaining sources.
As energy bills rise and Britain prepares itself for a winter of discontent, there is one family that is not worried.
Matthew and Charis Watkinson, and their children Elsa and Billy, have managed to survive the national energy crisis by becoming completely self-sufficient.
The young family is one of thousands of Britons who now live ‘off-grid’ – meaning they are cut off from the national energy supply.
Self-sufficient: Matthew and Charis Watkinson, and their children Elsa and Billy live in a self-built eco-home in West Wales, powered by wind and solar panels
The electricity in their self-built eco-home in West Wales is powered by wind and solar panels, which cost £5,000 to install, while they use firewood for their heating and hot water.
They also have a biodigester which converts organic food waste into LPG.
And that means they’re completely bill-free – making them one of the few UK families that don’t need to worry about the cost of living this winter.
‘Having no bills was a big savior for us,’ says Matthews, who spends about £1,500 on utilities every year.
‘We started thinking more about global stability and wanted to protect ourselves from crises in the world.
‘We feel very insulated against rising energy prices. We feel a little complacent but we feel bad for all those who have to deal with it.’
Six energy suppliers have closed in recent weeks — including Avro Energy and Utility Point — affecting nearly 1.5 million customers and forced to pay more for their power.
This is due to gas market prices which have risen over the past year on the back of strong global demand. Those whose energy suppliers shut down typically move to the more expensive standard variable tariff.
Energy regulator Offgame warned on Sunday that gas prices, which have quadrupled, will increase the bills of millions of households since October.
On top of that, national tax hikes and rising inflation mean experts are warning of a subsistence crisis for families.
This is exactly the type of national storm that 44-year-old Matthew and 36-year-old Charis are intent on avoiding.
Before living off-grid, they were both working as veterinarians in east London and had saved up enough to submit a home.
But the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent 2011 riots, as well as concerns over climate change, had left him to escape the rat race and become more self-sufficient.
All aboard: Lamorna and Gareth converted double decker bus £5,000 . bought for
He used his savings to buy three farms in Pembrokeshire before building his house out of repurposed vehicles.
Mathew says: ‘We still have a car so we are still affected by the shortage of petrol but we are hoping to be less dependent on that.
‘We’re not trying to be moralistic and preach to other people. Our main message is that living off-grid is really fun, it’s really liberating – certainly from a financial point of view.’
Families earn their money by conducting tours of their farm, along with courses that teach others how to be more self-sufficient. And they are not the only ones to be safe from the current crisis.
According to the online community Off-Grid.net, there are around 150,000 people living off-grid in the UK. This means that they are not dependent on the national energy supply. Off-Grid.net estimates that 60,000 live in off-grid campers, caravans and buses.
Another 30,000 people are believed to be living on boats without main connections, while another 25,000 are living in traditional homes, which are operated using self-sustaining sources.
Nick Rosen, founder of Off-Grid.Net, who has lived this way part-time for more than 20 years, says: ‘People living off-grid are showing us a possible version of the future.
‘They are showing how little energy we need to live comfortably. The current energy market is clearly not working.
‘It may not be possible for everyone to go off-grid but we may have a situation where we have “micro-grids” that allow communities to locally source and share reliable energy.’
For Lamorna and Gareth Hollingsworth, living completely off-grid is the dream.
Last year they bought a double-decker bus for £5,000 which they are renovating into a house with a budget of £20,000. They have a clear goal of making it sustainable.
It has solar panels and will use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – a highly efficient and energy-saving fuel.
LPG is bought from the bottle and the consumer body What? According to the U.S., a family spends an average of £796 per year to fill their household with LPG.
‘We’ve always wanted to be self-sufficient because it gives us a lot of freedom,’ says Lamorna, 39, a nutritionist and personal trainer.
‘Petrol stations are running out and everyone is worried about their bills. These things are out of our control. Now we feel that our control is back.
How bad is the energy crisis?
Last week began with an energy crunch, as households became increasingly aware of the problems with gas prices and the impact on their bills.
It ended with unnecessary rush on petrol, as people were told there was no need to panic buying fuel… and some people bought it immediately.
We are told that while the petrol problem is related to the lack of HGV drivers to deliver the fuel, unfortunately the gas problem is much more complicated.
The immediate implications for households are that some are finding that their energy supplier has malfunctioned and are being relocated elsewhere, others are finding they cannot switch, and many potentially larger imminent Staring at the barrel of price cap growth…