Sunday, 10 July 2011

Review - 'Behaviour Change and Energy Use' by the Cabinet Office

The secret Cabinet Office Briefing Room where national emergencies are coordinated from. It probably has nothing at all to do with this report which most likely was written a few floors up from this (probably) armoured basement.
I've just been a reading a rather annoying document entitled 'Behaviour Change and Energy Use' just published by the Cabinet Office. It is principally annoying because it presents information on how people and organisations react to exhortations to save energy as if they were startling revelations rather than things that are well known and widely understood in the energy sector. The other annoying element is the way the laudable 10% reduction in CO2 emissions is presented. It states (overstates?), "The Government has led the way on showing that it is possible to reduce emissions rapidly and cost effectively". OK its good but government has hardly 'led' on this. The very fact that it has been relatively easy to acheive shows that government must have ben fairly inefficient in the first place. This agenda has been led by local government, which at its best has made significant reductions based on a combination of belief in reducing emissions linked with financial necessity.

Another revealing aspect of the report is how it addresses reluctance to take up energy efficiency measures by householders. While praising the Green Deal mechanism they are creating (and which many are sceptical of) it goes on to say "we also recognise that households may need additional prompts and encouragement in order to overcome their natural inertia". It then goes on to reveal trials which include incentives such as B&Q and Homebase vouchers and loft clearance services etc. All these trials are based on the lower cost measures not the higher end measures such as solid wall insulation. There is a tacit acceptance that Green Deal on its own is not going to be enough of an attractive and compelling an offer. The other measure mentioned was the possibility of a month's Council Tax 'holiday' for people taking up energy efficiency measures.  One question you always have to ask with this government, (which knows the cost of everything  and the value of nothing) is 'where is the money coming from?'. The obvious one is the Energy Company Obligation. Its not taxation so will be recycled from our energy bills. That is not my principal concern (though we need to keep an eye on the impact on low income households) The ECO is an increasingly called upon pot in terms of supporting Green Deal with subsidised high cost measures and supporting those on low incomes so if it is to be used as an incentive mechanism then its impact must be transparent and understood. No mention is made in the document about area based approaches to insulation schemes such as Kirklees Warm Zone. It's proven, it works, therefore Government are ignoring it. Because it doesn't fit at all well with the Green Deal, an unproven mechanism requiring additional incentives?

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