Britain’s energy consumers – the climate disconnect and challenge

Ofgem’s annual consumer survey indicates a majority concern about climate change with many thinking they are doing what is necessary to combat it.

Almost 70% of the surveyed consumers believed that they were doing all they can to save energy at home and nearly half said they have already made improvements to home energy efficiency.

Moreover, most indicated an awareness of how much energy they use around the home and a realisation of peak and off-peak demand times for energy, with around two-thirds using appliances during off-peak times.

However, apart from younger higher income consumers, the appetite seems limited for the emerging low carbon options. Only around a quarter believed they would adopt an electric vehicle in the next five years and only one in seven stated an intention to install low carbon heating such as heat pumps or to install home generation.

Have you read?
One in four consumers plan to buy an EV in next five years – Ofgem
Make 2020s the decade of massive clean energy expansion – IEA
The Question of Energy Affordability

This indicates a mismatch between what consumers think they need to do to reduce the impacts of climate change and the actual behavioural changes needed, says Ofgem.

It also highlights what will be a significant challenge facing governments in particular but also energy companies and others not only in Britain but elsewhere as the drive to a 2050 net zero becomes more insistent.

Key barriers pertain to costs, scepticism around potential savings and lifestyle disruptions such as ‘range anxiety’ with EVs, heating installation issues and remote control of appliances for flexibility.

Notably the greater engagement with the energy market and intention to change habits is among those who are already involved with an EV or solar panels.

Ofgem notes in its conclusions that communications and awareness raising will help consumers along the path to changing how they use energy. However, this alone isn’t sufficient to motivate behaviour change.

“It’s important to be mindful that new heating, transportation and energy use solutions need to be affordable and compatible with consumer lifestyles or else they are unlikely to be adopted.”

In its net zero by 2050 pathway, the IEA notes that an inclusive and people‐centred transition is key to moving rapidly towards this target with Behavioural changes made by citizens and companies playing a roughly equal role in emission reductions.

The IEA indicates three main types of behavioural changes. Reducing excessive or wasteful energy use will require moderating heating temperatures to an average 19-20°C and cooling heating temperatures to average 24-25°C and reducing excessive hot water temperatures.

Transport mode switching will require a shift to cycling, walking, ridesharing or taking buses for trips that would otherwise be made by car and eco-driving with motorway speed limits of 100km/h. Where feasible regional flights are shifted to high-speed rail and business and long-haul leisure is not to exceed 2019 levels with price premiums and frequent flyer levies.

Materials efficiency gains includes higher rates of plastics recycling over 50% by 2050 and improved design and construction of buildings and vehicles.

Join the conversation about empowered consumers

Visit Enlit Europe 365 for webinars, podcasts, interviews, marketplace, projects. And more…