National Audit Office Press Releases
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Programmes to reduce household energy consumption

Programmes to improve household energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption cost taxpayers and householders around £2.6 billion a year. A report out today by the National Audit Office found signs that the long-term growth in household energy consumption is beginning to reverse. But greater efforts will be needed to maintain this recent improvement.

A typical UK household could save about 30 per cent of their energy bills if they adopted available energy saving measures. Recent surveys by the Energy Saving Trust highlight that 71 per cent of households leave appliances on standby, 63 per cent forget to turn lights off in rooms and 28 per cent leave heating on when their house is unoccupied. Reducing household energy consumption is also an important element of UK climate change policy, and assists other objectives, including combating fuel poverty and improving energy security.

The energy efficiency of households improved by 19 per cent between 1990 and 2004. Today’s report found that this improvement was offset by a rise in household energy consumption caused by trends such as more and smaller households and the growth in consumer electronics. Since 2004, however, household energy consumption has begun to fall.

The obligation on energy suppliers to provide energy efficiency measures has been successful, particularly in targeting vulnerable households. But there are concerns about the capability of suppliers to meet the required installation rates of loft and cavity wall insulation. The report also found a growing recognition of the risk of non-compliance with Building Regulations. There is little information on the degree of non-compliance but if not tackled it could undermine the requirements for new homes to be more energy efficient. Programmes to promote energy efficient appliances have had some effect, but other countries have probably done better in terms of take-up and the products on offer.

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said:

“There are encouraging signs that the long-term growth in household energy consumption is reversing. But most of us still forget to turn off the lights in empty rooms, and building regulations to save energy in homes are not always followed. If targets are to be met, departments need to improve their understanding of how programmes are working in real homes, and how householders are responding to them.”

Notes for Editors

  1. In order for government to meet economy-wide energy consumption targets, household consumption needs to fall by 11 per cent by 2010 and a further two per cent by 2016, compared with 2001-05 levels. And government has set a target to improve household energy efficiency by at least 20 per cent by 2010 compared with levels in 2000.
  2. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  3. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

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