Cost of household energy pushing consumers to go green
The research suggests that the recession, and accompanying concerns about money, is achieving what years of environmental debate hasn't - it is encouraging more consumers to go green. Only 9% of those who have become more energy efficient say that environmental concerns were their main driver.
Whatever the reason, the outcome is positive with 91% of households now switching off lights when not needed, 79% only filling the kettle with the required amount of water, 78% only running washing machines and dishwashers when full and 69% no longer leaving electrical appliances on standby.
However, while consumers seem happy to take cheap and easy steps towards going green, they are more reluctant to spend their money on longer-term energy efficiency measures. As a result, consumer cost consciousness could derail the drive for Britain to go green, with households shying away from anything that will eat into their tightened budgets.
Almost half (43%) of consumers believe that energy saving costs money. Of those who haven't had cavity or solid wall insulation fitted in their home, 64% say it's because of cost - they cannot afford it. Even when it comes to white goods, where a lower outlay is involved, cost can still derail good intentions. While 60% say that buying Energy Saving Recommended white goods is very important as it will save them money in the long run, 35% say the price of the product will always determine whether they buy or not. And this is not about whether consumers buy-in to the concept or not - less than 1% think that energy efficient appliances don't make a real difference to energy usage.
It also seems that the cost doesn't have to be high for consumers to be put off adopting green measures. Over a quarter of consumers (29%) rule out paying more for a 100% renewable ‘green' electricity plan. Almost a third (31%) would pay more, but of these 17% are only happy to pay up to £20 a year on top. Spread across the course of a year, this would mean an extra £1.67 a month on their electricity bill.
Perhaps because consumers are feeling the pinch, they would like reassurance that spending on energy efficiency measures will ultimately save them money. Almost three quarters (72%) would be likely to invest in energy efficiency measures if they were recommended on their energy bills.
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: "This is a double-edged sword. Consumers are reacting to the recession and the high cost of energy by cutting back on energy usage. They are taking simple steps, but they are not buying into the major energy efficiency measures because they are worried about the costs involved, are confused about what is available and don't understand the savings they could make. As a result they could miss out on the longer-term savings to be made from investing in making their homes more energy efficient. This caution is natural, but it smacks of a missed opportunity.
"The Government will also be concerned as the cost of going green could stop consumers getting behind its drive to make Britain's households more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. The Government should work with the energy industry and particularly with individual suppliers to ensure that consumers are getting the information and reassurance they clearly need to make them feel confident about making the investment.
"Consumers who are worried about costs can cut their energy bills by ensuring they are paying the lowest possible price for their energy and learning to use less of it. Move to dual fuel, pay by direct debit and sign up to an online energy plan to save up to £350 on your annual household energy bill. Some people might then find it possible to invest money in major energy efficiency measures. Under the Carbon Emission Reduction Targets (CERT) scheme we are all paying an extra £19 a year on gas and £18 on electricity to provide funding to support energy efficiency measures. Speak to your supplier to find out if you can benefit from this too."