energy lifestyle

How do we reverse the trend in household energy use?

In recent weeks, two of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers announced price rises for gas. The price of gas has risen by 122% since 2004, and in the process pushed one in five households into energy poverty –  that is, spending 10% or more of their income on energy.

Despite the rising costs of energy, we keep using more of  it. Between 1970 and 2009, household energy use crept up by 18%. More and more people have loft insulation and double glazing, but the population has risen too. More of us have energy efficient appliances, but we have more appliances to plug in. We also like our houses to be warmer, and there are more single-person households where an entire house is warmed for just one occupant.

This is a serious waste of money in a world of energy shortages, as well as a major source of carbon emissions. So how do we reverse this trend?

  • We can start by a national retrofitting project. It’s usually the poorest who spend the most on energy, living in substandard housing that leaks heat. While there’s plenty of support and no end of schemes and incentives, it’s not easy to persuade people to spend the initial cash outlay. Sheffield City Council has led the way by aiming to give everyone free insulation, an idea that a number of other councils have picked up.
  • The sooner we roll out smart meters, the better. The target is currently to have smart meters fitted in every home by 2020.
  • Smarter appliances that can read demand will also help, switching themselves off during peak times.
  • Public awareness of energy saving is still low, despite the large savings that households could be making as energy prices continue to rise. Unfortunately, groups like the Energy Saving Trust have seen their budgets slashed by the government’s anti-quango drive. Funding should be restored and increased, with the priority placed on local energy agencies that will run community centred projects rather than broad advertising based initiatives.


  1. “This is a serious waste of money in a world of energy shortages, as well as a major source of carbon emissions. So how do we reverse this trend?”

    Firstly there is no Energy Shortage. The rise in prices is due to the ridiculious policy of shutting down real energy production for so called unreliable “Alternatives”.

    Stop wasting time and money on failed renewables. Problem solved.

    “Carbon Emisions” is a false statement. There is a big difference between Black Carbon soot and Co2. Please clarify.

    Recent CERN Experiment CLOUD has independently verified the Solar Cloud link first observed by Henrik Svesmark. The data shows clearly that Co2 does not drive climate, the sun does.

    1. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Here’s why UK gas prices are rising – because our domestic production is in steep decline, and we’re increasingly dependent on imports:
      uk gas production

      This website is not a forum for your skepticism.

      1. Nothing to do with the ongoing spike in oil and gas prices as a result of the unrest in North Africa? Or the devaluation of currencies due to unsustainable debt levels?

        Spending countless billions on windmills that produce unreliable power costing ten times as much has nothing to do with it? Either through direct consumer cost hikes ot through taxes the consumer pays.

        Every nation and state that has followed this model is going bust. Spain, California, Ontario…

        “This website is not a forum for your skepticism.” Bear in mind that the opposite of Skeptical is Gulible.

        1. Sorry, my mistake. This website is not a forum for your denial.

          This post is about the cost of household energy, in the light of recent gas price rises. (Incidentally, I got an email from my supplier today to say their prices are going up by 18%.) Britain gets its gas from the North Sea, which is in decline, from Norway, and a small amount from Russia. The pound is doing fine right now. Wholesale prices have been going up for almost a decade, so the recent unrest in North Africa does not explain the situation. Neither does investment in renewable energy, which accounts for a small percentage of our energy mix. It’s also farcical to say that countries are going bust because they’ve pursued renewable energy – the two biggest investors in renewable energy are China and Germany.

          Your analysis is nonsense, and I’m not going to waste my time on a long and pointless comment stream, so you get just one more comment to sum up.

  2. “Carbon Emisions” is a false statement.
    Or perhaps just ambiguous. But in context, not so much. Unless otherwise specified or implied by the context, I think it is quite a safe bet to assume that Jeremy is referring to carbon dioxide emissions. He may even have in mind methane emissions (which are also carbon emissions: CH4) associated with natural gas extraction, transport and storage, which have a very significant effect on the overall radiative forcing associated with the full life-cycle of natural gas.

  3. How to combat the growth in one-person households is a big challenge to energy efficiency.

    I don’t think people are going to stop wanting to live alone and therefore I think the only option is education about energy use and making households as efficient as possible (through insulation, super efficient white goods etc).

    1. I don’t think people are going to stop wanting to live alone

      I wonder whether this is true. There are all kinds of costs to living alone. We are social creatures and I wonder whether an exploration of individualism and its problems might lead some people to reconsider their priorities. Perhaps I’m not going to start a mass movement anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do my little bit to try to persuade people that genuine relationships of trust and mutual service are a good thing and that sharing a household can be a great blessing.

  4. The only way to combat this is for more households to begin producing their own green energy with solar panels or wind turbines. It’s the most cost effective way to get your power and doesn’t require the burning of fossil fuels


    “Economist Russ Roberts responds: “A project that costs $100 million (though I’d guess this number probably doesn’t include the land costs) to save almost $1 million a year? There’s a name for that—a lousy investment. And creating 200 jobs? Not really. The project employed 200 people. Not the same thing.”

    To recap: They spent $100 million to save $1 million per year at Nellis and Mr. Munday spent nearly $32,000 to save about $800 annually.”

    What do you think the odds are that those solar and wind stations will last the 100 and 40 years respectively needed to break even? And will you live long enough to see it?

    1. You just claimed that countries that have invested in renewable energy are going bust, and that UK gas prices are rising because of North Africa and currency devaluation. In response to my challenge, you have pointed me to a blog post about a US air force base and a guy who put up a windmill. Not a great choice for what I said would be your last comment on this post.

  6. Amirlach, I’ve deleted your four comments here. I said you could have one more and I meant it. This is a post about energy efficiency. The passing mention of carbon emissions was not an invitation to discuss climate science. We’ve been there already.

  7. This is a great blog post about an important topic that affects us all – household energy use. The author presents some thought-provoking ideas on how we can reverse the trend of increasing energy use in our homes, and I appreciate the practical tips they provide. It’s important that we all do our part to reduce our energy consumption, and this post provides some helpful guidance on how to do just that. Overall, a very insightful and well-written piece!

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