Last spring I managed to find a company able to insulate my ‘difficult-to-insulate’ cavity walls, and at the same time I had the equivalent of solid wall insulation installed on the walls and ceiling of two rooms upstairs in what was originally the loft. As a consequence I have hardly needed to use the gas central heating this winter. So if my green supplier does decide to put its rates up in April 2014 it won’t make a huge difference to my costs.
So it seems unforgivably perverse that the Government should cut energy efficiency programmes just to reduce the increase in average energy bills by about £1 per week.
The 7.5 terawatt hours per year (TWh/year) of electricity the Government was expecting to save from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), the Green Deal and its predecessors might seem like relatively small beer when compared to the 25TWh/year which Hinkley Point C might eventually produce if it manages to operate at an unlikely 90% load factor. But of course fabric improvements to our houses will also save gas and oil and mean that after 2020 when the Government expects us all to start switching from these forms of heating to electric heat pumps, increases in electricity demand can be reduced.
The Association for the Conservation of Energy expected the original ECO to save around 1.6TWh/year (energy, not just electricity) over the period it was in operation in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. If a similar scheme were to operate from now until 2030, making savings at the same rate, this could save 20TWh/year.
But the ECO was insulating our housing stock at an incredibly slow rate. At the speed it was supposed to operate at during 2014 it would take 88 years to insulate the solid walls of all houses without a cavity, 14 years to insulate all un-insulated cavity walls and 40 years to complete loft insulations. If this work were speeded up the savings by 2030 could be much higher.
In the services sector the Government is only expecting savings of 6.75TWh/year to be made by 2030. Yet according to their consultants, McKinsey, around 22.4TWh could be saved from building envelope improvements, and 21.5TWh in lighting, making a total of 43.9TWh, and all at negative cost. In the industrial sector, the Government is only expecting a saving of 6.4TWh/year compared with the 20.8TWh which McKinsey reckon could be saved just from using more efficient motors and pumps.
Overall there are 100TWh of potential efficiency savings which the Government is failing to capture. This would be more than enough to replace the existing nuclear programme (70TWh) or enough to replace four power stations the size of Hinkley Point C operating at an unlikely 90% load factor.
The National Audit Office reckons there will be above inflation increases in energy bills until 2030. With an estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales last winter, shouldn’t we be asking whether subsidising new reactors at twice the current price of electricity is the right thing to do? And how many businesses will go to the wall because of increasing energy costs for the want of government assistance to save almost the equivalent of what Hinkley might produce just by installing more efficient lighting? It’s time to remove responsibility from the Big Six Energy Companies for installing efficiency measures and give it to a body whose profits don’t depend on us using more energy.
For more on this see NuClear News No.57 December 2013.