UK homes 'failing to cut energy use'

UK households are failing to cut back on their energy use and remain among the highest consumers in Europe, according to new research.

Domestic energy consumption has increased by 9 per cent since 1995 compared with a fall of 4 per cent in the industrial sector, according to the study by management consultants Roland Berger.

Figures show the amount of gas and electricity used in UK homes is 100 per cent higher than in Sweden, and significantly greater than Italy (38 per cent), France (40 per cent) and Germany (44 per cent).

The study says "soft" government initiatives and proposals to reduce energy consumption, including the introduction of a stamp duty rebate and in-home 'smart' meters, are unlikely to influence households or encourage conservation. Instead, short-term financial incentives, such as green taxes, are essential to cut consumption, it claims.

Individuals are unlikely to compromise their standard of living by voluntarily using less energy, despite the debate on climate change, the study concludes. It also says bad debt will cripple energy companies as demand and prices continue to rise.

Researchers noted that households in the Netherlands were taxed on the amount of energy they used, but were exempt if they used "green" fuel. The Netherlands and Sweden were the only two countries to reduce household energy use over the last 15 years, the study said.

Roland Berger partner Ernst van Duijn said short-term financial incentives were necessary to alter the attitudes and behaviour of UK households.

He said: "Existing 'hard' legislation is focused on new build homes, but if we are to have any hope of reducing household energy consumption the country's existing housing stock must also be targeted.

"To instigate significant behavioural change in UK households, our analysis shows that short-term financial incentives are the essential ingredient in the mix of financial and non-financial measures that is needed."

Van Duijn said the energy industry, as well as environmentalists, should be concerned about current trends.

He said: "With a rapidly emerging gap between supply and demand, energy prices will continue to soar. Bad debt will cripple energy suppliers as households are unable or reluctant to cope with incremental price increases.

"This is a trend we have already begun to see, and it is being exacerbated in the short-term by the increasingly bleak economic outlook."

Image: UK households are failing to reduce their energy consumption

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