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Are we becoming energy efficiency experts?

Secretary of State Ed Davey recently told delegates at Ecobuild that homes are using a fifth less energy than in 2004. The Carbon Brief took an in-depth look at the claim, and while quibbling a little about whether the headline stat is quite as simple as it seems, as all those working towards green aims in the UK do, that energy use is indeed falling. Quite why is harder to ascertain, as the Committee for Climate Change claim:

"We know that falling demand is combination of economic weakness, energy efficiency policy, higher energy prices and, possibly, non-price behaviour change - but questions remain around the relative contributions of those.”

Rising energy costs are an unavoidable first mention. Rising bills landing on doormats is a very real motivator for turning down that thermostat a degree or shortening a shower. It is also one of the reasons for the very serious implication of fuel poverty. A fall in energy use should certainly not masque underlying matters for urgent attention, but there are some pleasing changes amidst the tough choices.

Of the reasons that have been picked out, it’s good to see many of the key points from our top tips paying dividends. Firstly, the basics are getting tackled: insulating and heating systems. The proportion of the worst-rated homes by energy efficiency is falling, largely due to filling lofts and cavities and replacing old boilers. But there is still a lot to be done here, so efforts from public, private and third sectors have to maintain intensity.

Also making some inroads into UK energy use are the energy efficient products we recommend. There has been a significant rise in the purchase of A-rated white goods, while the phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs is given significant credit. The UK is in Europe’s top five for buying energy efficient lighting, with nine out of ten households now making the energy efficient choice.

There is much more potential here as LED lighting becomes cheaper and even more efficient. Of course a statistical trend is no guarantee that it will continue - as is rightly noted by The Carbon Brief. There is no reason to believe the job’s done, by any means. Our own research has found is that the UK public is worried about the nation meeting its demand for energy. From phasing in new technologies to improving behaviours in energy use further, the next few years will be crucial.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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