LBig companies aren’t known for trying to persuade customers to buy less – but that’s what’s happening in Britain thanks to soaring energy prices threatening to cause a crisis in the cost of fuel. life for millions of households.
Energy suppliers that have survived a brutal few months of unprecedented wholesale prices are being forced to sell gas and electricity at a loss thanks to government price caps. Selling less energy therefore benefits the bottom line.
Unusually, it is currently in everyone’s interest to reduce energy consumption as much as possible: the supplier, the customer, the State and of course the planet.
Since suppliers buy much of their energy in advance, they can now sell any excess gas back into the market at today’s high prices, making a profit or at least limiting recent losses.
This year’s price spike has provided further incentive to inform and educate people about the best ways to reduce waste, many of which result in far greater savings than expected.
How many of us knew, for example, that drawing the curtains at sunset can reduce heat loss by 17%? Or that by lowering what is called the flow temperature of your boiler, you can save up to 8% on your gas bill while keeping your home just as warm?
It’s easy for suppliers to get the tone wrong with this kind of advice, as Ovo Energy proved this week, with a misjudged article advising customers to do star jumps or cuddle their pets to keep warm. But when done right, the results can have a big impact.
Octopus Energy says it has seen a “remarkable” response to its “winter training” campaign to reduce customer usage which offers a series of 19 tips. None of the measures oblige people to reduce their standard of living, and customers receive detailed information on the savings they make in terms of money and CO2.
About two-thirds of customers who participated are saving money from their previous estimated consumption with an average reduction of 12% in their gas bills, according to company figures.
Putting that into perspective, cutting energy VAT from 5% to zero would cut household bills by less than half, cost the Treasury £2.4billion and do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.
Pete Miller, global creative director at Octopus, said a VAT cut would be insignificant in the face of a 50% rise in energy prices expected in April.
“We need practical measures that can really help people through what is hopefully only a temporary crisis,” he says. “Crisis is exactly the right word. It’s not just about energy efficiency advice, it’s tools that let you see the impact of that advice on your bills. »
Miller is clear that Octopus’ campaign is driven by a business imperative as well as an environmental and social imperative.
“It helps customers, it’s a win for the planet and it also helps Octopus. I will make no qualms about it. We are currently selling at a loss for each customer who is on the ceiling price. Under these circumstances, you would be foolish not to have the greatest impact possible.
The Energy Saving Trust says the average household can save £248 a year on their annual energy bill and 674kg of CO2, by taking 12 simple steps.
Among the cheapest and most effective are sealing voids around doors and windows, saving £30 a year and 105kg of CO2. Running a washing machine at 30C and only when full saves around £20. Keeping showers to four minutes can save around £45.
These savings are based on current prices and will therefore become even more significant when the energy price cap increases further in April.
Even the simplest measures can be very effective while saving money, says Vicky Parker, energy sector strategy partner at PwC.
“The tightness of the house, for example, can allow a household to operate its heating at 1 degree cooler without loss of comfort. It is known to reduce the annual heating bill by up to 10%.
As households face the acute concern of steep bill increases and longer-term fears over the climate crisis, this winter is a “material opportunity” for every household to benefit from reduced energy waste, says Parker.
Energy efficiency alone is not enough, and many of those facing, or at risk of, the most fuel poverty may have already reduced their waste. Most major providers have set aside funds to help customers in need, but the chief executives of all major players have said the government must also step in.
In the longer term, millions of UK homes need to be fitted with insulation. With energy prices expected to remain high for two years and possibly longer, there has never been a better time to invest in energy efficiency and waste reduction.