The Impact of Energy Efficiency

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change has claimed that Britain’s low carbon energy revolution is saving money for households. It states that households are making a net saving of £11 a month. Taking into account wind and solar subsidies which add approximately £9 to the average bill energy efficiency is saving households £20.

This downward trend has been driven by government and EU standards for appliances, boilers, and light bulbs. The new technology these include reduce both carbon emissions and energy bills and therefore upgrading a TV or fridge freezer can have a positive effect on both.

“What’s interesting,” said the committee chair Lord Deben, “is that people aren’t having to strive to make these savings. They could save much more energy if they consciously set about it.”

The report also states that home energy bills are approximately £115 less since the Climate Change Act in 2008 having risen for the four years previous to that due to rising international gas prices. In addition gas and electricity use have been cut by 23% and 17% respectively, saving the average household £290 a year.

Despite a number of savings already been initiated due to the replacement of inefficient devices the Committee remain confident more can and will be done with further reductions of £150 predicted to happen in the years leading to 2030. A mass switch to LED bulbs plus a full take-up of more efficient condensing gas boilers would be the expected driving factors in such reductions.

This further saving would again compensate for an additional £100 rise from increased renewable energy generation.

An area which requires particular attention however is home insulation with twice the current levels of government investment required in order for targets to be met.

A recent report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said energy bills had been pushed up by “poorly designed government interventions in pursuit of decarbonisation”.

It said energy security rather than decarbonisation should be the priority with committee chair Lord Hollick stating “It’s a very high price that is being paid for renewables.”

However the climate committee claim this analysis was unfair because it wrongly blamed renewables for rises in wholesale energy costs between 2004-2008. The committee insist that from 2008, when renewables policy started to bite, household bills have been more or less stable.

Lord Deben confirmed that household bills in the UK were around average for Europe however he did agree with the Lords committee that industry bills were too high, and urged ministers to examine whether the transmission networks or the wholesale electricity market are to blame.

The government welcomed the report and said new policies on insulating homes would emerge before long.

Claire Jakobsson from the manufacturers’ organization EEF said: “While the Committee is right to say low-carbon policies may not be the only factor reducing industrial output in some sectors, we believe it is a significant one – and one where government can act, especially in respect of costs which our competitors don’t face.”

Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Commons Business and Energy Committee, said: “The government must be mindful of the burden that decarbonisation policies can place on businesses and ensure that they remain competitive but the big energy companies are too quick to blame green policies from government for unjustifiable price increases. There are enormous opportunities in the UK moving to a low carbon economy.”

Whilst the increased usage of renewable energy generation has helped reduce both our carbon emissions Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart has claimed that the industry is at a crossroads.

Speaking ahead of the Scottish Renewables Annual Conference, which takes place on 21 and 22 March in Edinburgh he said: “On one hand, we see the potential for continued growth for parts of the sector, built on lower costs and a phased reduction in government support.”

“On the other, we see well-established technologies, such as onshore wind and solar, facing stagnation as a result of sudden and drastic changes to the very support schemes which have made renewables Scotland’s main source of electricity.”

Although we agree with the sentiment of the committee’s report we do not believe that in the current political climate anything will change with regards a new subsidy for onshore wind or solar.

We do hope that when things are more settled and the positive environmental impact renewable energy generation and carbon emission reduction has is plain to be seen for all that developments and subsequently renewable generation once again grows at a fast pace ensure clean safe energy for more and more of us.

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