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Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker

Peter McCusker is an energy journalist, based in the North East of England.

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High Energy Use Families Face UK Government Intervention

The UK Government’s drive to green the nation’s energy profile as outlined in the recent Energy Bill will not be achieved through supply side changes only.

The shift from carbon-based energy will need be accompanied by a renewed emphasis on reducing domestic and commercial energy demand, it says.

In tandem with last month’s Energy Bill the Government launched its Energy Efficiency Strategy which informs that energy consumption will have to fall by up to 50% per head of the population to hit 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

A 127-page report released at the same time, from consultants Rand Europe, highlights global initiatives aimed at cutting energy use.

One example saw a community of around 300 households in San Marcos, California compile their own energy-use league table which led to the high-energy users reducing consumption.

Rand highlight measures which adopt “intervention” strategies which target “high energy-use households” and “team-based approaches which use peer support (and pressure) as a way to encourage changes in behaviour”.

Rand concludes: “It would seem that the key to maximising returns could be to better target the programmes at groups that have scope for making the greatest savings.

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“Although evidence is limited, it suggests that one of these target groups should be those that currently have the highest levels of energy usage.

“This is an area where there may be a window of opportunity for aligning behaviour change interventions with programmes seeking to encourage investment in energy-saving infrastructure improvements.”

The 106-page Government Energy Demand Reduction report, released to support the consultation, seems to agree.

It says: “Our analysis suggests that there remains some scope to deliver real reductions in electricity consumption in homes by incentivising behaviour change measures.

“Evidence from the US suggests that innovative uses of real-time energy consumption data combined with targeted recommendations can encourage households to reduce their electricity consumption.

“We would expect these savings to be additional to the electricity savings resulting from building fabric measures in the scope of the Green Deal and ECO (Energy Company Obligation), and the behaviour changes resulting from smart meters.

“We seek views on whether this type of policy would be effective in delivering verifiable reductions in electricity demand.”

In trying to establish what measures may be applicable to a UK setting Rand referred me to the DECC, and it says that at this stage it is an “open consultation” and “the exact mechanisms on how it will operate are open for debate”.

Energy UK is working on its input to the consultation, but the Energy Saving Trust was more forthcoming.

A spokesman said: “We believe that people can be encouraged to use less energy by giving them greater control over their energy use and empowering them to practise energy-saving behaviours within the home.

“We believe this can be done through a combination of new technology and meaningful engagement and consultation.”

It says the roll out of Smart Meters, which collect information about energy use in the home, will help consumers keep track of the energy use.

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The spokesman continued: “This can empower householders to adjust their energy consumption accordingly so they can save energy in the home. Energy Saving Trust research indicates that the average household can save up to £90 per year by practising energy-saving behaviours within their home.

“Indeed we feel that the success of new energy efficiency schemes will be based mainly on how Government engages with the public.

“Ultimately we recognise that you can have all the energy efficiency measures installed but they still won’t have a meaningful impact unless the person is energy efficient themselves. You can’t have energy efficient homes, without energy efficient citizens!”

What does this all mean then?

Many electricity users facing a £100 a year rise in fuel bills as a result of the supply side changes outlined in the Energy Bill make welcome additional help in making their money work harder.

But, if it’s simply that you like a warm comfortable house, and have done all you can to make it energy efficient, you may well take umbrage at being subject of some further Government-backed “behaviour change interventions”.

The consultation ends on January 31, 2013, with a report expected after.

By. Peter McCusker




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