A staggering 84 percent of households are yet to receive clear advice from the Government on how they can improve their home’s energy efficiency, while almost half of renters (46 percent) don’t believe they will be allowed by their landlords to make energy efficiency improvements. Households also widely underestimate their home’s contribution to UK carbon emissions, believing that such a contribution amounts to no more than 5 percent – while the reality is more like 14 percent.
Utilita Energy’s inaugural ‘Household Energy Behaviour Index’ set out to better understand the nation’s home energy behaviours and attitudes, via a survey of 5,000 UK households - the largest study of its kind. The report, which reveals a major disconnect between households and the Government’s ‘net zero’ strategy, has resulted in an industry white paper calling for urgent action in the interest of the least energy efficient and fuel poor households, and the planet.
The report reveals that lower income households are the least energy-efficiency engaged, with only nine percent claiming to have received clear enough advice on ways to cut their energy wastage, compared to 47 percent of higher income households.
Renters have also been left out in the cold with almost half (46 percent) assuming they cannot make their own, or request any non‑essential changes, despite new legislation introduced in 2018 allowing tenants to make energy efficiency improvements.
Despite most households (71 percent) wanting to cut their energy usage, only two-fifths (43 percent) plan to ‘spend to save’ as encouraged by the Government. However, the average amount they are prepared to spend in the next 12 months is only £148. About a third (31 percent) of households said they would only like to hear about methods of saving energy that do not require an initial outlay on their part.
The Government’s top-heavy ‘spend to save’ message is hitting around one in five homes, who say they intend to purchase ‘big ticket’ items such as an electric vehicle, heat pump or solar technology (18 percent).
“The Government’s current ‘spend to save’ approach to energy efficiency is not going to work” said Bill Bullen, environmentalist and founder and CEO of Utilita Energy, the UK’s only energy supplier created to help households use LESS energy. “Our report findings reveal that the £148 average investment in energy efficiency measures will not support the Government’s ambition to encourage the installation of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.
Despite its many iterations, the Government’s net zero strategy is currently upside down and is only speaking to the ‘energy elite’, and even then, this group is confused about which technology they can trust to help them save costs and have no idea where to start.
Our findings confirm this short-sighted ‘spend to save’ approach to energy efficiency is harming progress by leaving millions of households who can’t afford these technologies feeling disengaged and not part of the nation’s net zero journey. Encouragingly, the findings of this report demonstrate a widespread appetite to become more energy efficient at home, but clear and official guidance is required, starting with the free and easy ways to cut energy wastage.
The global energy crisis gives the Government a last-ditch opportunity to get energy efficiency right. Our latest white paper has presented a sensible strategy that will get every household on the net zero journey from day one.”
With the smart meter being central to the Government’s plans to improve home energy engagement, the report has investigated the current adoption landscape. It reveals that 38 percent of households say they currently have no smart meter, and almost half of those without a smart meter, say they would refuse one anyway (45 percent). When asked why, the main objections were: ‘don’t need one’ (22 percent), ‘not enough benefits’ (21 percent), and ‘too intrusive’ (11 percent).
“The biggest barrier to households becoming ‘smart-enabled’ appears to be poor communication campaigns associated with the rollout” added Derek Lickorish, Former Chairman of National Energy Action - the UK’s largest fuel poverty charity. “Far too many households still believe there aren’t enough - or any - tangible benefits to having a smart meter. The Government is well-aware that smart meters and the intel they generate can help every household save as much as a fifth of their energy usage, but so far they have failed to communicate this.”
The Household Energy Behaviour Index also revealed the nation’s attitudes associated with the impact of our home energy behaviours and climate change. As a nation, most of us accept that climate change is having a negative impact (74 percent) and two in five (43 percent) believe it is having an impact on their lives, personally.
Encouragingly, almost nine in ten people (89 percent) acknowledge that home energy behaviours can positively impact the fight against climate change. Six in 10 households claim to know how much of the UK’s overall carbon emissions are generated by households (60 percent), but when probed, they underestimated the impact saying households only generated 5 percent of the UK’s carbon emissions, when households generate 14 percent.
“If every household was given help to reduce their energy waste, this would equate to 14 percent of the total carbon savings required to achieve net zero by 2050 under the Climate Change Committee’s ‘option 3’ vs the business-as-usual “do nothing” scenario from the sixth carbon budget” said Archie Lasseter, Sustainability Lead at Utilita Energy. “This is a huge impact that has so far been overlooked by the Government - despite every energy supplier having the power to help their customers cut energy wastage without spending a single penny on home improvements.”
The report concludes with a list of four recommendations for the Government to action to improve the nation’s engagement with energy efficiency:
Mandate all energy suppliers to provide their customers with real‑time energy intel and insights to enable them to improve their energy efficiency behaviours and cut wastage.
Revise the smart meter rollout communications to promote the main benefit – energy intelligence and insights, that can guide households on how to reduce wastage and save them up to 20 percent on their annual energy spend.
Introduce a minimum Energy Performance Certificate ‘C’ rating before a house can be sold or rented to improve the energy efficiency ratings of UK housing stock.
Launch an education programme for all landlords (encompassing private, agency and social) and their tenants to inform all parties on the right to an energy efficient home, and access to technologies such as smart meters.
The Household Energy Behaviour Index will track attitudes and behaviours annually, for publication in the spring.
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