logo

The expert voice for energy efficiency in the UK.
Follow us:

Brexit: will consumer energy savings survive?

According to official UK government statistics, the most cost-effective energy efficiency policy for every category of energy consumer covers energy-using products.

But it is clear that, regardless of the fuel bill savings forgone, there are many zealots who wish many of these product standards to be abolished in the UK: witness those vituperative stories regarding high-efficiency vacuum cleaners and energy saving lightbulbs – let alone the toasters that were never included in the EU rules – printed in the xenophobic Daily ExpressMail and Telegraph newspapers.

The financial savings are not stopping those determined, like the the Sun’s similar effort last year to say Up Yours to the EU, to demand a whole clutch of energy efficiency standards are now revoked.

According to the UK’s best selling newspaper its readers will be able to “see the light” best by “bringing back the incandescent lightbulbs, phased out by EU regs”. Never mind that changing these bulbs across our economy is one of the main reasons why UK electricity consumption has fallen by over 15 per cent over the past decade.

Similarly The Sun demands we should be “swapping weak EU-regulated vacuum cleaners for powerful ones”. And that we must have “dryer hair by avoiding EU energy rules on powerful hairdyers”.

Indeed this ‘Newspaper of Record’ is demanding that we must return to”using appliances free of energy constraints”.

Let us just stop there, and consider what doing what The Sun and the other deregulatory champions want, would mean. In practice, rather than in rhetoric.

Products policy covering electricity consuming producers is exclusively controlled by the European Union. Formal involvement with which the UK is set to sever two years from now.

The EU Ecodesign Directive establishes a framework under which manufacturers of energy-using products are obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other negative environmental impacts occurring throughout the product life cycle. The Energy Labeling Directive complements it, providing standardised product information for prospective consumers, under the familiar CE marking.

The genesis of both directives goes back 25 years, to 1992, when the European Single Market for products was first created – ironically with strong backing from a (then as now) Conservative UK government.

Its scope currently covers more than 40 product groups. Such as air conditioning equipment, ventilation units, computers and TVs, boilers, lighting, domestic white goods like fridges and washing machines.

Between them, these products had historically been responsible for around 40 per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Official UK government figures show just how much the existence of these directives is saving all of us money on our electricity bills. This is worth repeating. We are dealing here with an environmental  policy that is actually saving us all a great deal of money every single year.

The current estimate is that these policies alone are already saving the average household some £67 a year. Given what is in the pipeline the official estimate for 2020 for each household’s electricity savings each year is £153, including VAT. That will be cutting the assumed average electricity bill by 20 per cent.

These are savings currently enjoyed by households that The Sun and its Little England allies seems to be perfectly content to see removed, in order to satisfy their xenophobic dogma.

What about the classic tabloid hero, white van man? He and his fellow small business entrepreneurs currently benefit even more from European products policy.

The savings for the average small business are reckoned currently to be £700 a year off electricity bills. To put that into context, the annual cost to such businesses of the UK’s unilateral Carbon Floor Price tax is £1,100. By 2020 the product policy will be delivering £1,700 off electricity bills for the average small business.

For larger businesses, of a size to be involved with the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the European product policy is now taking an average of £24,000 a year off electricity bills. By 2020 that average is officially reckoned to have soared to £62,000 annually. In contrast, the yearly cost to such businesses by 2020 of the UK government’s unique Contracts for Difference and Capacity Market Auctions policies is due to be £133,000.

What about large energy intensive industries, albeit ones that benefit from all Floor Price exemptions and compensations? Even they are making useful savings. Those with an average £6.4m electricity bill can reckon to be gaining £125,000 each year from these unsung product policies. By 2020 the bonus savings from European product policies is set to be worth some £432,000 a year to companies of this size.

As Brexit doesn’t take place until the financial year 1919/20, all these 2020 savings can reckon to be “in the bank.” But what happens after 2020? Particularly if the UK does quit any formal involvement with the European Single Market?

After all, it has up till now been the exclusive role of the European Commission to police implementation of product policy. Who will replace this role?

As the House of Lords energy and environment committee chair, Lord Robin Teverson, acidly observes, his committee has “found that effective enforcement of existing legislation would be crucial to overcome such ‘short-term vulnerabilities’.”

And of course, what will happen regarding the introduction of any new categories of products?

The Ecodesign Directive is a framework directive, meaning it does not directly set minimum ecological requirements. These are instead adopted through specific implementing measures for each group of products. They are adopted via the so-called comitology procedure, where implementing measures are based on EU internal market rules governing which products may be placed on the market.

Manufacturers who market any energy-using product covered by an implementing measure in the EU area have to ensure it conforms to the energy and environmental standards set out for the measure. And of course from 2019 UK manufacturers are set to be directly excluded from the process of negotiating these standards. In practice, the introduction of any new minimum requirement results in effectively banning all non-compliant products from being sold in the 28 Member States.

The UKIP 2015 manifesto certainly makes hostility to product energy standards clear. Before dismissing this fact, remember that UKIP’s was the only manifesto at the last General Election that now accurately reflects present government policy regarding the European Union.

Be warned. We will need to seriously guard against surrendering those ever-increasing savings on all our electricity bills, once we have “taken back control” of our energy-using product policy.

Andrew Warren is the Honorary President of the Association for the Conservation of Energy and Chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation

Continue Reading No Comments

The market is not a black box

Louise Sunderland freelance built environment sustainability consultant. She previously worked as Senior Policy Advisor at UKGBC and before this in both the research and parliamentary teams here at ACE.

The ruling theory governing energy efficiency policy has for some time now been that the ‘market will deliver’ the energy and carbon savings we as a society need. And the guiding framework for national and European policy is based on interventions to enable the market to deliver.

But as we know ‘markets’ are not sentient beings that make decisions. What we actually mean by ‘the market will deliver’ is that huge numbers of diverse consumers will respond to market signals and engage, behave and invest (often) their own money in “rational” ways that deliver against policy goals. They will change energy profligate behaviours, they will undertake disruptive works to their homes and businesses, they will purchase equipment, materials and services in exactly the ways that ‘socially’ we need them to.

In the last decade we have seen headline European buildings policy begin to make useful interventions to enable the consumer overcome market barriers – the building energy information tool, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), was introduced about 15 years ago and more recently there has been a focus on energy use awareness through accurate billing and ‘smart meters’, and the provision of finance to overcome investment barriers.

But what we haven’t really cracked is getting under the skin of what consumers really need ‘end to end’ to enable them to do what society needs them to – for example taking on deep renovations of their buildings. There is no definition of consumer information or advice provision in the relevant European energy efficiency directives (the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive [EPBD] and the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive [EED]), there is no indication of what level of consumer support might be needed to achieve our existing buildings refurbishment ambitions (stated in the EPBD as incrementally moving the existing stock to nearly zero energy [and sometimes carbon] buildings!), and current advisory services (with a few notable exceptions) across Europe are inadequate to address the needs of consumers to achieve these aims.

Unfortunately, we haven’t thought seriously enough about the consumer journey and how well the policy framework supports every step. We also haven’t given sufficient focus to those few examples of really rigorous energy advice and support ‘one-stop-shops’ in Europe – like those in France and Germany – and evaluated these and other programmes to develop understanding and evidence of what support produces what results. This reveals a major blind spot.

Focussing on the market rather than the consumer allows us to imagine a kind of black box – ‘the market’ – in which the most difficult questions, like how does an uninformed consumer negotiate conceiving, financing, managing and getting feedback on a complex whole building renovation, get answered by undefined forces or market players. Until we open this black box and do the work to figure out exactly what we need to put in – what support consumers actually need – to get out what we know we need to get out then the market can never be expected to deliver sufficiently to meet our long-term climate and energy objectives.

Louise, as a member of the Energy Advice Exchange, has recently published a discussion paper and briefing (downloadable here) on revisions to the European energy efficiency package which aim to stimulate exchange and debate on the subject and propose improvements to the key European Directives. Louise has also recently posted a blog on her reaction to the European Commission’s recent “winter package” on sustainable energy (downloadable here).

Continue Reading 1 Comment

commercial sector,ESOS,policy design

Non-domestic energy efficiency – policy design principles

Dr Peter Mallaburn is Director of Policy and Governance at the Energy Institute, University College London, and Editor of Climate Policy Journal. He has represented the UK on air pollution, climate modelling and energy policy in the EU, OECD and the IEA and worked on international climate negotiations. Peter helped write the UK’s first Climate Change Programme, set up the Carbon Trust, was Salix Finance’s first CEO, and set up his own consultancy, Policy to Practice, in 2008.

The government is currently reviewing its non-domestic energy efficiency policies as well as its wider policy portfolio as part of the Carbon Plan. DECC’s 2016 Departmental Plan provides some context:

Although the energy intensity of the UK economy has fallen by 24% since 2004, there remains significant untapped potential for energy saving in the business sector. Realising this potential will improve businesses’ productivity and will also support growth. But the business energy tax and policy framework is complex and businesses tell us it does not provide the incentive it could to reduce energy consumption. 

This article contributes to this process by outlining our state of knowledge on energy efficiency and identifies some key policy principles around which a new energy efficiency programme could develop. It is drawn both from the literature and from direct policy experience in the UK and overseas.

Continue Reading No Comments

data,Energy Company Obligation,Green Deal

DECC’s Household Energy Efficiency Statistics: the good, the bad and the whaa…?

Liz Warren is a founder and director of SE2, a small consultancy helping individuals, communities and organisations build their capacity to respond to climate change. You can find out more about their work at www.se-2.co.uk.

DECC recently published statistics on the take-up of energy efficiency measures by households during 2015.  In this blog post, we unpick some of the data, exploring the good, the bad and the frankly baffling within the rich data set provided. How did policy announcements affect the market? Have whole-house energy assessments unlocked energy efficiency opportunities? And could we have found the elusive answer for improving the private rented sector?

Continue Reading 2 Comments

Latest developments in energy efficiency financing

Dr. Steve Fawkes is the founder of EnergyPro Ltd which provides advisory services in energy efficiency financing and incubates new ventures. He is Senior Adviser to the Investor Confidence Project and sits on the Investment Committee of the London Energy Efficiency Fund. His blog onlyelevenpercent.com covers energy efficiency financing and related matters.

For many years the energy efficiency industry has complained of lack of finance as being a barrier – but the truth is more complex. The industry has always focused on capital cost and energy cost savings, usually expressed as payback period. It is time to move beyond this simplistic model. In the last few years the existence and value of non-energy benefits such as increased productivity, better health, increased revenues and many others has started to be recognized. The International Energy Agency estimated that non-energy benefits could be worth four times the value of energy savings. Recent work by the UK Green Building Council, Marks & Spencer and others, has looked at valuing these benefits in the retail sector. As well as financial value these non-energy benefits are much more strategic than simple energy savings, if retailers can increase sales or reduce employee turnover, those are strategic issues in way that energy savings will never be. The energy efficiency industry needs to learn to identify and value the strategic non-energy benefits in business cases for investment, whether it be internally or externally funded investment. It also needs to learn to build better business cases.

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Taking action to improve energy refurbishment of flats

David Weatherall has worked for many years on energy efficiency policy at UK and European level. He works for Future Climate and the Energy Saving Trust, and is currently a Knowledge Exchange Fellow with Oxford University Law Faculty working on the legal barriers to home energy improvements.

Most people might assume that flats are warmer than houses. After all, every flat has at least one other dwelling above or below it, making it a lot more difficult for heat to escape.  And flats tend to be newer than houses, with more modern construction, glazing and insulation features.

And across the English housing stock the average energy efficiency of a flat is indeed higher than that of a house. But that fact masks the problem that we’re not improving our older flats with energy efficiency upgrades at the same rate as we are our houses.

Continue Reading 4 Comments

Installers,Retrofit

Installer Power: Releasing the potential for local building trades to get energy improvements into homes

Catrin Maby OBE is an independent researcher and consultant, and PhD candidate at Cardiff University, with more than 30 years’ experience in delivering energy advice and energy efficiency programmes.

Installer Power: the key to unlocking low carbon retrofit in private housing’ by Catrin Maby and Alice Owen (University of Leeds) was supported by the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts Climate Change Collaboration.

It’s time to face up to reality. We need to achieve ‘near zero energy’ levels for all our home by 2050, but what are we actually doing to achieve this?  We have run programmes to increase the deployment of those technologies that fit a short term simplistic view of what is ‘cost-effective’, and Feed in Tariffs to shift the market in microgeneration. This is not enough. The focus is on single technologies, and there is little incentive or even encouragement to achieve really deep energy savings.

Continue Reading 1 Comment

People, places and practice: a case study of the energy implications of migration and domestic laundry practice

Guest-blogger Quqing Huang recently completed her Environmental Technology MSc (specialising in energy policy) at Imperial College London. ACE Research acted as her external supervisor for her thesis, upon which this piece is based. Quqing is interested in the human-environment relationship, sustainability and clean energy. She currently works as a researcher at SynTao in Beijing, analysing government policies on corporate disclosure, corporate social responsibility and corporate compliance in China.

Britons seem to place a high value on the cleanliness of their linen, as a typical household runs the washing machine 5.5 times per week and uses the dryer for 5 times every week on average1. On a macro level, wet appliances are estimated to consume 1.3 Mtoe in 2014, which is the second largest source of electricity use in the household2. Being an energy-intensive practice, it opens a window for change in terms of demand reduction.

  1. Zimmerman et al., 2012, Household electricity survey- a study of domestic electrical product usage. Final report issue 4
  2.  DECC, 2015, Energy Consumption in the UK (2015)

Continue Reading No Comments

Time to wake up to the reality

Amazement, shock and concern greeted the news that energy use has declined over the last 50 years. But will the Government finally catch on to the benefits of energy efficiency?

In September, Energy in Buildings & Industry’s Warren Report was headlined “The Silent Revolution in UK Energy Use”. In it, I revealed that over the past fifty years UK GDP wealth has increased by almost threefold while at the same time overall energy consumption across the economy has actually fallen (by about 5 per cent).

The level of interest in this simple juxtaposition of two trends, heading in opposite directions, was astonishing. I have been writing monthly columns on energy for over 30 years but I can honestly report that never before has a single column of mine stimulated quite so much interest.

Continue Reading No Comments

Behaviour,Domestic Energy Consumption,heritage,historic buildings

Building on the Past: energy efficiency in historic buildings

Dr Thomas Yarrow is a Senior Lecturer at Durham University.  In this perspective piece, he shares some findings and implications from his current project, Building on the Past.

In the UK we are obsessed with the past. Old buildings are all around us, valued in different ways, as symbols of history and tradition. They contribute to our sense of identity and place, and have a range of social and economic values. However, preservation of these buildings does not always sit easily alongside the aim of improved energy efficiency. Micro-renewables, double-glazing and improved insulation can all contribute to improved energy performance but can also adversely affect the aesthetic qualities and historic materials that we value. Around 20% of English homes were built before 1919, and older homes tend to be less efficient than those built more recently.  Making improvements to historic buildings poses challenges, so it is important to understand what these homes mean to the people who live in them, and work with them.

Continue Reading No Comments

CONTACT US | FIND US | US | © 2017 Association for the Conservation of Energy. CAN Mezzanine, Old Street, 49 - 51 East Road, London N1 6AH. Registered company number 01650772