Time for behaviour change: UK wasting £500m on annual energy bills

The UK has the potential to save up to 2.2TWh of energy every year - representing almost £500m in utility bills - through simple behavioural change adopted by businesses and consumers across the country.

That’s according to a worldwide study released today (13 June) by utility software firm Opower. Behavioural energy efficiency remains ‘largely untapped by much of Europe’, according to the study, with European households unnecessarily emitting an extra 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 alone.

“Clearly there is a real opportunity here for many countries to cost-effectively cut their greenhouse gas emissions and increase consumer affordability,” said Opower’s vice-president for marketing and strategy in the EMEA region, John Webster.

The findings report that Germany has the most to gain (2.2 TWh annually) by adopting behavioural energy efficiency programmes due to its large population and high energy costs. The UK, France, Italy and Spain are the next countries ranked by greatest potential.

“Germany is a prime example,” added Webster. “Here is a market that has long invested in green technologies to reduce carbon usage on the supply side. Yet our study clearly reveals the size of their energy efficiency prize and the importance of demand side management, with consumer savings instead of consumer costs.

“Germany has the most potential to save energy simply by focusing on the role that individual consumers and businesses can play through informed behavioural change.”

Opower believes behavioural energy efficiency measures could help countries turn around the shortfall to the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive, which has set the goal of a 20% reduction in energy use by 2020.

Behaviour change: Three key steps

To maximize Europe’s energy savings through behavioural efficiency programmes, Opower recommends that regulators and utilities alike take the following actions: –

  1. Act now to claim the achievable potential today – programmes could impact over 149 million households across Europe and can be implemented straight away, unlike many other demand side energy saving programmes that struggle for adoption. 
  2. Include behavioural interventions in all energy efficiency frameworks – utilities and program administrators should include behavioural interventions as standard practice in the efficiency portfolios, so that utilities and their customers can realize the full benefits of these programmes. 
  3. Include behavioural interventions in all Resource Potential Studies – many governments, programme administrators and third-party influencers have conducted Resource Potential Studies, but these often address structural interventions alone, rather than evaluating behavioural approaches. 

Opower analysed data from 26 countries in Europe, representing 229 million households.

Systematic changes

The study is supported by similar research from Vickers Energy Group, which discovered that British businesses are missing out on savings of up to 76% on energy bills – even during the summer months – through energy systems not being properly managed and overused.

Vickers Energy Group’s managing director David Hilton said: “Many companies fall into the trap of forgetting about their energy bills during the summer months. This is the most important time to review it and ensure that the system in place is one that works properly and doesn’t present huge bills and consumption.

“Summer is the time when businesses should be considering whether their heating system regulates consumption across the different zones at the same time.”

Luke Nicholls

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