Spiralling energy prices: The catalyst to accelerate sustainability for all

A new Powering Change white paper published by Schneider Electric highlights how much more can be done to address the UK’s high levels of energy waste, at a time when every penny counts for UK businesses and consumers.

With energy prices set to remain high for several years, and increases in energy price cap impacting consumers, one often overlooked solution is to reduce the high levels of energy waste produced by UK homes and businesses. Over a quarter of all energy produced in the UK lost or wasted each year.

While we cannot influence the cost of energy, on average, 82% of the potential energy savings that could be made in buildings remain untapped, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Moreover, the introduction of existing energy management technology can reduce energy use by 30%, dramatically reducing the impact of energy price increases and reducing carbon footprints.

Cost is frequently cited as a barrier to introducing efficiency improvements such as installing smart home energy devices, not only amongst private homeowners but also by commercial landlords and property associations. Yet with a lifespan of over 100 years for most buildings, should financing efficiency and ultimately sustainability be a challenge?

Key points highlighted in the white paper also include:

  • The untapped potential of smart metres. At the end of 2021, only half of the installed UK domestic meters were smart metres. Of these, 15% were not operational, representing a further 4.1 million smart metres yet to be used to their full potential.
  • Smart thermostats – the quickest, most cost-effective way to reduce energy waste. According to a YouGov survey, only 18% of UK consumers use a smart home thermostat. Costing on average between £120 and £220, these equip both householders and commercial tenants with information about their energy usage and prompt them to adjust their energy behaviour.
  • Green buildings are a smart investment: On average, for example, we typically see a 30% reduction in energy usage, bills, and carbon footprints resulting from investment in smart, sustainable homes, commercial and office buildings.
  • Green means value: A recent report by Schneider Electric customer JLL suggested that over the last three years, houses rated outstanding or good by BREEM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) can command an 8% rental premium above that of non-rated buildings command an 8% rental premium above that of non-rated buildings. This echoes a report by the World Green Buildings Council, which estimates a 7% increase in asset value in new or renovated buildings.

Nico Van Der Merwe, VP Home & Distribution, Schneider Electric, says: “With the hike in energy prices, there’s an obvious incentive for household consumers to get on top of energy waste and make bills more manageable. Home improvement and access to smart technology will reduce energy bills and energy poverty and make homes more comfortable. There needs to be a shift in thinking because, for many, the ability to invest in energy efficiency is a distant prospect for many consumers who assume it’s something they have no control over. Crucially, this needs to be tackled in a way that makes energy efficiency affordable for all, or the burden of increased energy prices will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable.”

Kelly Becker, UK and Ireland President of Schneider Electric adds: ‘‘Higher energy bills, food prices and higher travel costs threaten the UK’s economic recovery, and it has never been clearer that energy efficiency must be accessible to everyone. Commercial landlords and housing associations have an essential role to play and set against spiralling energy costs. The financial incentives to reduce our energy use and cut carbon emissions have also never been stronger.

“Investing in energy efficiency is a win-win scenario. By embracing energy efficiency now, using existing technologies, we can reduce the impact of rising energy costs and accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions towards net zero to avoid climate catastrophe. Not only are these technologies proven, but they can be deployed quickly at scale – helping to reduce energy bills and decarbonise our homes and businesses immediately. By retrofitting and future-proofing UK housing and building stock we can ensure it’s not a scramble to the finish line.”

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