Turn those lights off!
There is huge emphasis these days on energy efficiency as a key component of our low carbon and security of supply ambitions. In fact, in a world of declining natural resources and increasing global population, with a growing focus on sustainability, using less energy - and water - as we go about our daily lives is becoming unquestionably a good thing (for the planet and our pockets).
So surely cause for celebration that a landmark deal was finally struck in Brussels earlier this month on a new Energy Efficiency Directive, which for the first time will introduce legally binding measures to require EU member states to use energy more efficiently across the chain of supply. It is reckoned that these measures will set the EU on course to meet a 17% reduction in energy usage by 2020; somewhat less than the 20% voluntary target set back in 2007 which, without these latest measures, would be missed by a mile.
The draft Directive, which is not yet in force and unlikely to be implemented before Spring 2014, includes measures which focus on the public transport and building sectors, where the potential for savings is greatest, as well as the introduction of smart meters (underway already in the UK), and clearer product labelling. Energy suppliers will also be mandated to deliver energy savings equivalent to 1.5% a year against their annual sales from 2014 to 2020, using a bundle of 'flexible' measures.
However, negotiations were fraught with difficulties, and what has emerged is a compromise which falls short of the original proposals, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our own government to water down the original proposals.
Notably, the original idea was to codify the voluntary 20% target into a legally binding target, requiring energy efficiency retrofits to all public buildings (including social housing). What we are left with is discretion for member states to set their own targets, and retrofitting that applies to central government buildings only (albeit with an obligation on governments to develop 'road maps' for building renovations through to 2050).
Nonetheless, the hope now is that political agreement on these new binding measures will act as a stimulus for the market in energy efficiency services, and increase the renovation rate of the EU building stock. One result might be the creation of a large volume of high quality jobs.
Sounds good, but when it comes to energy efficiency law and policy, the devil is always in the detail, and the UK government's very own flagship scheme in this area - the Green Deal - has had a difficult birth.
The Green Deal programme is a novel initiative to help bill payers make energy saving improvements to buildings, funded by the resulting reduction in energy costs. Dogged by confusion and delay, and some very real concerns around consumer protection, the Government finally came up this month with a lot of the detail, including the secondary legislation. For more information, click here.
With full end-to-end testing expected during October to December this year, the pieces are slowly falling into place, and consumers are expected to be able to apply for a Green Deal Plan towards the end of January 2013.
According to the Government, this and other measures will bring about 60,000 new jobs in the insulation sector alone by 2015. With recent disappointing news from Vestas that it is apparently pulling the plug on its planned offshore wind turbine factory in Sheerness, this is critical for our Government and its aspiration to build a green economy.
But the real prospect of large scale energy efficiency improvements is also timely in light of a report released only this week by the Energy Savings Trust which suggests that the need to reduce energy consumption in Britain's housing has never been more pressing.
It seems UK homes are using much more energy than previously thought - with up to 16% of household bills spent on devices left on standby. That's a staggering figure when you consider that around 25% of the UK's carbon emissions are related to home energy usage. But with the typical modern home apparently containing an average of 41 devices (compared to around a dozen back in the 70s), perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.
The report contains some fascinating insights. As might be expected, fridges and freezers are the biggest culprits when it comes to energy usage, but it seems we use our washing machine on average 300 times a year, some people 3 times a day.
With the current unseasonal weather, and people set to be stay indoors glued to their TV sets as we begin Wimbledon fortnight and then the Olympics, don't expect home energy consumption savings to begin any time soon.