A study has shown that a public media campaign to encourage consumers to cut back on their gas use this winter could save households nearly £400 and the Treasury £9 billion.
An analysis by a multi-party think tank Social Market Foundation found that households could save between £250 and £400 a year if a British campaign similar to Germany’s National Energy Awareness campaign was launched.
The government has been criticized for not advising consumers to cut back on their gas and electricity consumption this winter in the face of high energy bills and concerns about blackouts. Germany was more dependent than Britain on Russian gas before the invasion of Ukraine and its government has worked to conserve energy use amid concerns that the Kremlin may decide to cut off gas supplies altogether this winter.
Lights have been turned off in some public buildings in Germany, and in September the government launched a campaign to encourage families to reduce heating. Since then, the country’s gas consumption has fallen to between 20% and 37% less than in previous years.
Britain is vulnerable to rising prices and increased competition for gas as a result of the European crisis, which has led to calls for a national effort to cut consumption.
The Guardian revealed last month that the Truss government was willing to push the button on an official campaign but decided to reject it. It later emerged that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the then business secretary, had signed off on the £15m ‘light touch’ campaign to save £300 a year on energy bills, but the move was blocked by Truss, who opposed the ‘nanny state’ intervention.
The government’s information site, Help for Households, was later updated with information about reducing boiler flow and anti-draft windows, but there was no widespread campaign. Advocates of the campaign say it will help consumers save money and reduce stress on the power grid.
The National Grid said Britain could face sustained blackouts of up to three hours in a worst-case scenario. The government also re-examined Yarrow’s plans in the event of a nationwide blackout.
Reducing energy use will also generate significant fiscal savings, as Truss’ energy price guarantee policy now means taxpayers are subsidizing every unit of energy used in the UK. The Social Market Foundation’s analysis of UK government data showed that a 20% reduction in gas consumption would save customers £261 billion and the government £6.2 billion while a 30% reduction would amount to £392, or £9.3 billion.
The German campaign did not amount to forcing families to reduce consumption, and contented themselves with advice.
Far from ‘nurturing’ people, government guidance would enable and, more importantly, help them save on their energy bills, said Jake Shepherd, senior researcher at the Social Market Foundation. Reducing energy use would provide significant savings to the Treasury, enabling It may reduce pressure on ministers to find money elsewhere through tax increases and spending cuts.”