The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported a 24.7 per cent decrease in household energy consumption in England and Wales.
Having analysed data between 2005 and 2011, the ONS found that household consumption of energy (including gas, electricity and alternative sources such as oil) fell by 6.5mWh during the period. Homes in England and Wales used approximately 26.2mWh of energy in 2005 compared to 19.7mWh six years later.
The cause of the reduction has been attributed to increased awareness of environmental concerns, higher energy prices and improved energy efficiency.
Consumer groups argue that the ever-increasing cost of energy is the main determinant of consumption.
Speaking to the Guardian, Richard Lloyd, the Executive Director of Which?, said: “The fact is many consumers will have cut back in order to save money in the face of spiralling prices and squeezed incomes.
“People will not feel confident that they are getting a fair deal unless prices are simplified and the costs that make up our energy bills are open, transparent and subject to robust scrutiny”.
Loft and cavity wall insulation, not to mention technologies such as solar PV and ground source heat pumps, have helped to make homes in England and Wales more energy efficient. Increased efficiency equates to lower consumption, which results in more affordable bills. But energy efficiency measures, such as those available under the government-inspired Green Deal, are typically available only to rich or middle-income households.
The energy divide in England and Wales can be glimpsed in the ONS figures, which show that the areas in which energy consumption was at its highest also happened to be where most households took advantage of price-saving tariffs such as Economy 7. Charities have stressed that the poorest households tend to be the least insulated, meaning that occupants use more energy than their more affluent neighbours. Because more energy has to be used on necessities such as washing and heating, consumption is greater among fuel-poor households, few of which are able to benefit from schemes such as the Green Deal.
Fuel Poverty Action commented: “These figures suggest that home insulation works to cut bills and cut emissions, but only if you can afford it”.