Despite the flak that the energy companies have taken in recent weeks for raising prices to consumers, some fundamental facts remain true: the supply of fossil fuels is limited; world demand for them is rising; so the trend in the price of gas and electricity (still mainly generated from fossil fuels in the UK) continues upwards.
This was the backdrop to an event I attended at the House of Commons recently. Plumb Center, in association with with Honeywell, Fernox, Grundfos and Mira, launched an initiative to highlight affordable measures that most households could install to help reduce their utility bills.
Sustainability on a Budget aims to help members of the public gain insight and information about practical, low-cost measures that will make a real difference not only to the cost of energy in their homes, but also to their carbon output. We hope to remind householders, both directly and through our trade customer base, of the relatively simple and inexpensive things they can do for themselves.
I was impressed with the commitment and realism of the event’s speakers. Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, reminded the assembled guests of some sobering statistics. Britain has some of the oldest and most inefficient building stock in Europe. Around 15 million of the 26 million homes in Britain are not properly insulated, and around 12 million non-condensing boilers remain in use. More than half of all households do not have proper heating controls. So the many consumers still with inefficient homes are using a lot more energy than they need to, and they are paying a high price for this through their fuel bills.
Talking with politicians at the event, I was convinced that government and the industry working together can help consumers reduce their bills, and the country’s carbon footprint. But as well as fitting products such as modern heating controls, it is imperative that individual customers and households change their behaviour in terms of the way they consume energy.
Certainly, Green Deal promises a significant boost over the next few years for ‘big ticket’ improvements such as installing more efficient boilers and insulation. But many homes would benefit from taking a few simple steps today to cut their energy and water usage. And we merchants should do all we can to get this important message across.
As Baroness Verma suggested, doing nothing is not really a viable option.
Simon Allan is Plumb Center’s Renewables Director.