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Britons are reducing energy use to save money – and the environment

Exclusive Ipsos polling explores how people are coping with rising energy costs.

By Polly Bindman

Britons are reducing their energy usage to save money this winter – and to help prevent climate change, according to new Ipsos polling shared with the New Statesman.

According to the study, which explores how people are coping with rising energy costs as well as what advice they are seeking to alleviate the burden, a large majority of Britons (85 per cent) are already cutting their personal energy use.

Strikingly, while green measures have regularly been characterised as a burden on households (for instance, in her campaign for the Conservative leadership Liz Truss promised to place a temporary moratorium on green levies in order to help with household savings) the public appear to reject the idea that there is a trade-off between reducing the cost of living and furthering climate action.

While the great majority of Britons (80 per cent) unsurprisingly say they are cutting down energy use to save money, one in three said they wanted to do so to prevent climate change at home, and a similar amount said they wanted to help prevent global heating abroad.

There is plenty of evidence to support the notion that household savings and climate measures go hand-in-hand: a study from Carbon Brief published in January this year, for example, shows that energy bills are £2.5bn higher than they would have been had the UK government not scrapped climate policies over the past decade.

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A recent analysis from the Resolution Foundation found that homes rated F on the energy performance certificate (EPC) scale will see their energy costs rise by 77 per cent this winter, compared with just 52 per cent for those rated C on the scale, highlighting the value of energy efficiency measures.

Jeremy Hunt, who has scaled back support for energy bills, said earlier this year that in light of the global gas crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK must decarbonise the economy by 2050 and develop “more homegrown clean energy”, which will “lower people’s bills, strengthen our energy security and avoid the worst consequences of climate change”.

Yet the government is not implementing policies like a national insulation programme to tackle the climate and cost-of-living crises simultaneously. It has, however, revived a campaign, scrapped under the Truss administration, to provide advice on limiting energy consumption this winter. The data from a poll conducted before the policy U-turn suggests this campaign is likely to be well received by the public.

According to an analysis published last week by the Social Markets Foundation, such a campaign could save households between £250 and £400 annually on their energy bills.

And such advice is being sought out by the public. Ipsos finds that while the majority of people cutting costs have either done so of their own accord or from following advice, one in five are currently seeking further help on how to make savings this winter.

The type of advice sought goes beyond being told to put on an extra layer (though Ipsos finds that many people welcome such tips). Rather, people want to know how to implement more technical home improvements, such as how to access lower energy tariffs.

Yet while a plurality of respondents (43 per cent) think energy companies have the greatest responsibility for providing advice, followed by the government (41 per cent), trust in these institutions is low: just 17 per cent of respondents, on average, trust either of these two groups to provide the necessary advice.

Instead, the most trusted sources of advice (picked by 36 per cent of people) are consumer organisations and websites, which would include sites such as Which? or Money Saving Expert.

Commenting on the polling, Rachel Brisley, director of energy and environment at Ipsos, says that while “some Britons do feel they need advice on the smaller actions they can take”, the “larger actions that will continue to save them money in the long run – such as improving energy efficiency by installing insulation, including help to fund these changes – are the ones which feel perhaps the most daunting and where they need better guidance”.

The findings come after the UK energy regulator Ofgem reported that providers were failing to protect vulnerable customers. In some cases, customers on pre-payment meters disconnected their energy supply after being hit by high debt charges. In others, suppliers failed to provide support to customers who couldn't take their own meter readings. One supplier, however, said the findings of the report were based on "incomplete" information.

[See also: Cop27 shows climate collaboration can survive dark times]

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