Two fresh UK studies show the clear needs and targets for national energy efficiency.
A survey for the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and a report published by Green Alliance together provide a fascinating snapshot of the opportunities and challenges facing policy makers.
The NEF survey conducted by ComRes indicates the level of knowledge and awareness around energy while the Green Alliance report underlines which housing sector would benefit most from energy retrofit projects.
The NEF survey, a nationally representative sample, advises that most British adults say they would like to reduce their energy consumption, either because of the financial cost of using energy (four in five, 81%) or because of the environmental impact (seven in ten, 70%).
While three in five (58%) British adults say that they feel well-informed about energy issues, with older people and those from higher social grades (AB) most likely to feel informed, responses reveal some gaps in knowledge.
For example, half of those polled did not correctly identify that LED lightbulbs use the least energy and just over half are likely to say that the bulb which used the most energy is tungsten filament (52%). The research also revealed that 35% of adults believe that low voltage halogen bulbs use the least energy.
British adults also tend to say that the compact fluorescent bulbs use a higher amount of energy (with two thirds, 67%, saying that these bulbs use the most or second most energy of those tested).
Clearly, there’s some energy education to do here as every person in the UK should know that LED lights are the most energy efficient solution – and be actively fitting these in their homes and workplaces.
From our own data, they can cut electricity consumption by up to 85%, covering costs of purchase quickly and then continuing to save energy for a decade or more because of their long lifespan.
The survey also advises that three in five British adults say they know how much energy their home uses (58%). However, only one in ten (11%) say the same of their place of work. Those polled look to private companies to train their employees to in order to use energy more efficiently (79%), and also to the Government for education of the public (76%) and in schools (73%).
We can see a clear advantage for businesses to have energy saving focuses at the centre of their corporate social responsibility strategies – linking the home energy knowledge closely to the work environment. This cross fertilisation in sustainability is highly beneficial in both commercial and business cultural terms.
Refreshingly, three quarters (73%) of British adults say that they regularly seek information about energy issues. The most important of these sources are news and documentary programmes on the TV and radio (42%), searching on the internet (32%) and via energy companies directly (22%).
However, two in five (41%) British adults know that the UK’s electricity supply comes mainly from fossil-fuel combustion. This means that the majority (three in five, 59%) do not know the principal source of the UK’s electricity supply.
At the same time, British adults are not consistent in their estimation of energy consumption across a range of everyday, household items. While a majority (61%) assume the correct energy consumption for a light bulb, less than half accurately estimate the correct energy consumption of everyday household appliances such as a power shower (44%), a kettle (42%), an electrical convector heater (42%) and a tumble drier (38%).
ComRes interviewed 2,058 GB adults online between 5th and 7th September 2014. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. Full survey data here.
The Green Alliance report also adds to our knowledge of national energy culture and strategies. The report is strident in its view that tower blocks should be the first priority in energy efficiency retrofit projects.
The reasoning is simple – 400,000 UK households living in tower blocks are disadvantaged and commonly suffer from high bills due to poor building fabric.
The report argues that such refits are economically viable as well as cutting significant carbon and energy bills, with further health and quality-of life-benefits.
While the focus is on energy efficiencies gained through better insulation, heating, and smart meters, it also makes perfect sense to include the whole gamut of energy-saving solutions, ensuring every refitted home has LED lighting and water-efficient solutions like eco showers, eco taps and tap aerators.
These are the little, cost-effective steps that add up to big differences to energy bills and sustainable living.