David Hall is Executive Director of social enterprise, Behaviour Change. In this blog he outlines three key reasons why this year is likely to be significant for energy saving.
After Labour’s price freeze plan took the party conference season by storm, energy issues were rarely out of the headlines in the final months of 2013.
When we carried out focus groups in 2012, a third of respondents told us that energy bills were a hot topic in their daily conversations, at the time alongside Jimmy Saville, Lance Armstrong and Felix Baumgartner (remember him)? Our subsequent YouGov survey in 2013 showed that energy bills were the nation’s single biggest financial worry.
Yet in all the talk of solutions to rising bills, there’s been an absence of serious discussion about what really needs to happen: concerted action on energy efficiency. While this has been frustrating, it’s my view that we are now on the brink of an historic opportunity to change this numbingly familiar conversation and set it on a more positive track. Here’s why:
Political change is in the air
We’ve reached a stage where the credibility of the political answers being offered to rising energy bills is so paper thin that a genuine national programme to drive energy efficiency, with all its benefits around future generation requirements, economic growth, regional development and hitting CO2 targets is starting to look like a real vote winner. Throw in the increasingly emotive ‘heat or eat’ fuel poverty discussion and this makes it worthy of notice as a viable destination for serious infrastructure investment. With an election on the horizon, might such a programme not prove appealing to manifesto writers at long last?
There are new reasons for people to care
The time feels right for a more concerted effort to convince skeptical consumers of the benefits of energy efficiency. There’s now urgency, both from the bill increases that have yet to come and from the looming prospect of blackouts. There are new drivers, like smart meters and pay as you save (which is bound to be part of the solution in some form). And, according to our focus groups, there’s even openness to mandatory energy efficiency standards (or a 'car tax' style regime via council tax or stamp duty). All this needs to be wrapped up with a coherent package of help to aid householders in making the transition and a long-term framework that is able to endure changes of government and the ebb and flow of individual policies. But the potential, at last, is there.
Technology is making saving energy sexy
It is already perfectly feasible to control the temperature of your house wherever you are via your Smartphone. We can only guess at the innovations that might come next but the role of technology in making energy saving easy, aspirational, perhaps even fun should not be underestimated. I’ve been struggling to think of the last innovation in home energy before these kind of digital developments. The chimney balloon? The condensing boiler? Hardly the stuff of pub conversations.
At long last, the conditions for an energy efficiency culture may now be coming into place. For those of us gunning for a step-change in the prominence and appeal of energy saving, it really feels like 2014 could be our year.
Together with Forum for the Future, Behaviour Change is set to launch The Big Energy Idea at Ecobuild in March 2014. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.