Household energy consumption report

03 March 2009

The Public Accounts Committee today publishes a report examining progress in reducing household energy consumption.

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

"The seemingly good news that household energy consumption fell between 2004 and 2007 is confounded by two sobering facts. One is that households in 2007 were still using 8 per cent more energy than back in 1990. The second is that household energy use will continue to rise, a function of the need for extra housing, rising expectations about how warm dwellings should be and an ever rising use of electrical appliances.

"As the new Department of Energy and Climate Change recognizes, much more needs to be done to achieve big reductions in household energy use. The hardest thing will be to persuade people to stop paying lip service to concerns about climate change, to change their behaviour and to enable them to take real steps, based on reliable advice, to make their homes much more energy efficient.

"I therefore welcome the Government’s new proposals for heat and energy saving in homes. These chime with a number of the Committee’s recommended ways forward such as energy audits of houses and accreditation for those advising householders and installing the appropriate measures.

"I am concerned though that not enough is known about whether the building regulations for new houses are actually being complied with and delivering the energy saving performance promised."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its fifth report of this Session which examined progress in reducing household energy consumption. This was on the basis of evidence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (the Department), which was recently formed with the aim of bringing together energy and climate change policy, and from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has responsibility for delivering some of the supporting programmes.

Household energy consumption is responsible for 27 per cent of all UK carbon emissions. Reducing household energy consumption is central to efforts to mitigate climate change and can help decrease poverty by reducing household energy bills. The Government encourages the installation of energy efficiency measures through obligations on energy suppliers. The Government also seeks to influence householder behaviour through the provision of information on energy saving measures and the labelling of the energy efficiency of appliances. Building Regulations specify energy efficiency standards for new dwellings. European Union regulations set minimum energy efficiency standards for some appliances, such as fridges and freezers.

Together these programmes cost the UK around £2.6 billion a year: a mixture of government expenditure and compliance costs borne by businesses and households. The value of the potential energy savings is significant; the typical household could save around £300 a year from introducing energy efficiency measures.

To meet economy-wide energy consumption targets, household energy consumption must fall by 11 per cent by 2010 and a further 2 per cent by 2016, compared with 2001–05 levels. To meet the government’s longer-term carbon targets, household energy consumption will need to reduce by 36 per cent by 2020, compared to 2001–05. The government’s programmes may have contributed to the reduction in household energy consumption in the last three years, 2004 to 2007, which followed a long-term trend of rising household energy consumption. Overall, however, household energy consumption was still 8 per cent higher in 2007 than in 1990.

Without sufficient improvements in energy efficiency, energy consumption may rise again due to trends such as the growth in the number of households, the demand to use more electronic appliances and a desire to live in warmer homes. To offset these upward pressures and achieve further reductions, the key challenges for Government are how to strengthen and improve enforcement of minimum energy efficiency standards for new homes, and how to coordinate and focus government programmes to increase the energy efficiency of existing homes and achieve behaviour change by householders.

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