UK households cut energy use by 25%

uk energy use photo
CC BY 2.0 University of Salford

The Guardian reports that UK households cut their energy use by 25% between 2005 and 2011. That's obviously quite a big deal, and it goes to show that there is plenty of low hanging fruit to be had.

From government support for subsidized insulation (since cancelled) to a huge boom in solar panels, it seems likely that at least some of those gains were due to people doing more with less and harnessing the technologies that are becoming available to us.

However, another, less rosy picture emerges if you start to look at the details behind the numbers. Here's more from The Guardian:

Price comparison service Uswitch said almost seven in 10 households went without heating to keep costs down and that a third of people said cutting energy use was affecting their health or quality of life.

A spokeswoman said: "These figures show the true impact of higher energy costs – people are choosing to go without rather than risk racking up a huge bill. As the cost of energy has soared so too have the number of households forced to ration their use."

This isn't entirely bad news. When energy costs more, people use less of it. So from carbon taxes to stricter regulation of coal plants, measures which add costs to energy production - and hence retail price - will ultimately help to reduce consumption too.

But given the crippling health and economic impacts of fuel poverty, we must remember that it's often those at the bottom of the economic ladder who pay the highest price.

Sooner or later we'll all have to adapt to a new, low carbon economy and the end of cheap energy. But adaptation is a whole lot easier when you have the means to do it.

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