The UK government launched their Energy Efficiency Mission on 4th of February. It has been launched in an attempt to place energy efficiency squarely at the forefront of future policy.
Speaking at the launch, the Prime Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to better energy efficiency and said that only those countries who were among the “greenest” would be the ones who would see the most prosperity within Europe.
After warning that the UK could not afford to make green energy a priority in the face of criticism from his own party, the PM has certainly laid his cards on the table with regards to green issues, but is it enough?
Speaking at the EEM launch, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Gregory Barker stated that one of the stumbling blocks the government faces is that there may be “too many policies” which are trying to deal with energy efficiency. Yet in spite of this fact, energy efficiency and wider green issues are often pushed aside in favour of more pressing concerns.
Barker’s speech then goes on to express his amazement when starting at the DECC that there were already a number of hot ticket issue departments in place, including the Office for the Deployment of Renewables, the Office for New Nuclear and the Energy Efficiency Deployment Office. You can’t help but think of it as some kind of Orwellian super-ministry, working for our ultimate benefit.
But just what do they do in these various “offices” that is actually having an impact at the (excuse the pun), coalface?
Well, there’s the Green Deal (we’ll come back to that in a minute), the Energy Company Obligation, the Smart Meters Programme and Electricity Market Reform. All well and good, but what are they?
Electricity Market Reform
At its simplest, the EMR is the government’s plan to ensure the UK remains an attractive destination for investment in low-carbon electricity. It is hoped that reforming the UK’s electricity infrastructure will help us to meet energy targets, stimulate economic growth and most importantly for you and me and everybody else, will lower the cost of our energy bills.
Exactly how the EMR will achieve all of its aims is too much for this article, if I had to explain it to someone, I get the feeling they’d just say, “yeah, yeah that’s all good, but will it cut my gas bill?” I couldn’t answer them definitively, because the government has said that in the short term, it will increase bills, but by the late 2020s, the average household bill will be lower than would have been the case without it. Frankly, by the late 2020s, I’ll be into my 50s and I doubt I’ll ever take pause and say, “thank God for the EMR saving me money in the long term”. One to keep an eye on I think.
Smart Meters Programme
On paper, this one looks a bit easier to grasp. Between 2014 and 2019, all homes in the UK should be fitted with a smart meter. These are not just any old meters, these are smart meters, who’ll be able to let you know just exactly how much energy you’re using on a daily basis and also communicate this to your energy supplier, so there will no more embarrassing doorstep encounters with the meter man in the future. At least that’s something!
On the plus side, the smart meter will provide almost real time information on your energy usage so that you’re only paying for what you use. This in turn will allow the energy supplier to offer you the most appropriate tariff for your needs. Also, if you know how much energy it takes for you to say, do a washing or cook your Sunday roast, you can see where to apply any canny energy saving tips you may have come up with.
Getting to the nitty gritty, you won’t have to pay for it to be installed and measures have also been put in place to make sure that smart meters won’t leave you stranded without credit in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning halfway through blowdrying your hair! They don’t call ‘em smart meters for nothing you know.
The smart meters programme at least sounds like something that might actually have a measurable impact on you and me, providing us with information that we can use to put into action and save ourselves some money, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want that?
Energy Company Obligation
The ECO took over from the CERT and the CESP (doesn’t the government love an acronym?) at the end of 2012. Let me make that a bit plainer, the Energy Company Obligation replaced the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP), got that? Me neither.
Essentially what this seeks to achieve is making suppliers responsible for increasing household energy efficiency by meeting 3 sets of targets;
- Carbon Emissions Reduction Obligation
- Carbon Saving Community Obligation
- Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation
The ECO will also seek to provide energy initiatives to low income households, which should come as welcome news to the 5 million households in the UK who are living in fuel poverty, where some families have to make the choice between eating and heating.
If it can meet these targets then this will be a massive contribution not only to meeting energy targets, but also lessening the burden of high prices on families who are already struggling.
The Green Deal
I’ve left the big guns til last for this one. The Green Deal has become the government’s poster child for hitting energy targets. The Green Deal is a scheme which will allow homeowners to leverage the cost of energy efficient home improvements against any future savings on their energy bills.
It sounds like a great idea; you get to improve your home, making it warm as toast in the winter and just right in the summer. Unfortunately, like most things which have a whiff of being too good to be true, so far it has proven to have a few more teething problems than anticipated.
A YouGov poll has shown that one week after it was launched, 39% of those surveyed were aware of the scheme and what it could do for them. This has been praised as being a great result and that a figure close to 40% for a scheme that was only a week old is a fantastic result for the Green Deal.
However….that means that there are 60% of potential customers who still don’t have a clue that this exists, or if they do, they have no idea what’s in it for them. And this is the potential source of the Green Deal backfiring on the government, and with a £2.9 million media campaign behind it, it is something they can ill afford to get wrong.
The survey has also revealed that potential users of the service may not see the long term benefit in the scheme, with only 8% of those surveyed feeling it would make a “big difference” to their energy bills.
When you consider that there are 14 million homes which need to be improved under this scheme, 40% awareness still means they have a long way to go before it can be considered a success.
David Cameron has stated the fact that the UK cannot afford to ignore green policies and it would seem they are heading in the right direction, but behind all the Offices for this and that and any amount of green initiatives, they still need to focus on the consumer as it is them who will ultimately decide the success of their policies at the ballot box.
JM is a keen green energy and environmental blogger and has written about a number of topics in this area, including those affecting UK energy companies.
- Legal Advice Reminder (stopsmartmeters.com.au)
- Is Your Smart Meter Wrecking Your Health? (inspiredlivingcarol.wordpress.com)
- Keeping up with the Greens (energysavingtrust.org.uk)