On Wednesday, Ed Davey, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, announced the creation of a new Energy Efficiency Deployment Office and insisted that energy efficiency “has to be right at the heart of what we do”.
Today, a new report published by AECB – the Association for Environment Conscious Building – challenges the Secretary of State to take a long, hard look at what this ambition could mean in practice. Successive governments have claimed to champion energy efficiency yet none have got to grips with what is required to radically reduce the nation’s energy consumption.
Less is More: Energy Security after Oil calls on the government to take a rigorous value-for-money approach to energy policy and prioritise interventions that will give us the biggest carbon reductions for the least cost. Improvements in energy efficiency are usually cheaper than investing in new supply infrastructure yet government incentives continue to favour increasing supply over reducing demand.
According to the report’s principal author, AECB’s energy expert David Olivier, “Energy efficiency remains as important an opportunity for us as the discovery of a new series of giant oilfields, but without their global warming impact. Many energy efficiency measures save energy worth more than the cost of the measure, so not only do they pay us to save energy, we also save CO2 at a profit.”
A radical approach to energy efficiency would help to solve many of the pressing problems in Mr Davey’s in-tray including:
Soaring bills The current cold snap is a reminder that rising energy bills have a human cost as well as a political cost. Major improvements in the energy efficiency of homes would reduce costs, improve warmth and remove the need for expensive investment in new generating infrastructure.
Anger at the consequences of ‘greening’ the energy supply The fresh assault on the renewable subsidy for wind power from 101 of Mr Davey’s parliamentary colleagues is a sign of many battles to come. If we want to decarbonise our electricity supply, we cannot avoid the switch from polluting energy sources to renewable technology. Yet the government’s current path to a low carbon future, involving whole-scale electrification of heating and transport, will massively increase the nation’s electricity demand at a time when we should be radically reducing it.
Energy insecurity Britain has become a net importer of energy at a time when international supplies look ever more vulnerable. Energy efficiency is a resource that no foreign power can ever cut off.
Ongoing rows about nuclear power The more attractive and abundant the alternative energy options on offer are, the less the government needs to rely on this controversial and divisive option.
“Efficiency really is the gift that keeps on giving,” says AECB CEO Andrew Simmonds. “Efficient use of energy saves on bills now. And it saves the capital cost of all the new extraction, generation and transmission technology that our current levels of energy consumption will demand in the future. We can stick to the cheaper, safer options for new energy, and do without the riskier, pricier ones.
“None of the energy efficiency measures cited in our report would cost the UK more than about 3p per kWh electricity saved. Who wouldn’t want electricity at 3 p/kWh, when most consumers currently pay 8-13 p/kWh?”
The new Energy Efficiency Deployment Office is charged with coming up with a new energy efficiency strategy for Britain. Yet this could easily end up as more tinkering at the edges: if the strategy is to make a real difference, it should to set the direction of national energy policy. Prioritise energy efficiency, and we all benefit from a cleaner, leaner, more secure energy system.
Notes to Editors
1. AECB – the Association for Environment Conscious Building is a network of individuals and companies with a common aim of promoting sustainable building. It brings together builders, architects, designers, manufacturers, housing associations and local authorities, to develop, share and promote best practice in environmentally sustainable building. We pride ourselves on our independence, relevance and practicality.
2. Less is More: Energy Security after Oil is available at:
3. For more details please contact the AECB at firstname.lastname@example.org