Britons and energy efficiency: a stated importance but a lack of practices

Rexel has announced the findings from an international study which cited that 94% of British consumers consider energy efficiency an important issue. Unfortunately, 45 per cent of said they had not installed any energy efficient products to date because of “a lack of financial incentives”.

Contrast between the stated importance of the subject and the reported practices

The British are exceptionally aware of the question of energy efficiency, with 94% of them considering it to be an important issue (including 62% who consider it to be very important) and 87% also saying that they pay attention to their energy consumption (with 37% paying great attention). Despite this, when asked more concretely about the adoption of everyday actions that make it possible to reduce energy consumption, it appears that the British have not truly integrated all of these in their habits (for example, the use of power strips with an on/off switch or completely filling the washing machine before starting it), in particular compared to the Germans who claim to be the most attentive in this respect.

This gap between theory and practice is also reflected in their relatively incomplete knowledge of the measures that have been introduced in order to promote energy efficiency. Indeed, of all the measures tested, only the ban on incandescent light bulbs was well known to a majority of Britons (75% said they knew of it and 54% knew it well). This was not the case for the other three measures: the roll-out of smart meters to all homes by the end of 2018 (known by 65%, and well known by 33%), the Carbon Trust loans for businesses (44%, of whom only 10% said they understood them), and the preferential feed-in tariff for photovoltaic solar panels (32%, of whom only 13% knew them well). It should be noted that while they are not well known, these measures are not necessarily closely linked to everyday life.

Despite a situation of unease with regard to purchasing power, a relative openness toward investments that pay for themselves

To improve their energy efficiency, the British, approximately 70% of whom are home owners, tend to favour significant investments within their dwellings (installation of double-paned windows, alarm systems warning of unusual consumption levels, solar water heaters or heat pumps, etc.) and are motivated to do so by the resulting long-term financial benefits. Indeed, the financial aspect is fundamental to the approach of the British to energy efficiency, with the desire to reduce expenses being the most frequently cited reason for encouraging it (for 97%, including 73% who consider it a very good reason).

Although it genuinely leverages the potential of energy efficiency, the financial aspect can also be an obstacle, in particular in the current context of restricted purchasing power. Thus when they are asked about what it is that stops them from making energy savings, one Briton in two cites the overly high price of low-energy products (bulbs, sensors, etc.), while 45% point to the low level of financial incentives.

The financial aspect is not a sufficiently powerful lever to give the issue of energy efficiency a coherent overall profile

While the British seem to be aware of the financial considerations associated with energy efficiency, they also seem more generally to lack information on the subject. Thus, they primarily want to receive information about the financial incentives and existing legislation (35% of them) as well as the work that energy efficiency would imply for their homes (31%). At the same time, they are critical of the lack of information on products and prices (38% of them) and consequently expect the big box stores with which they are familiar in their everyday lives to do a lot in terms of encouraging energy efficiency.

Most importantly, the British seem to interpret the concept of energy efficiency in a specific way. In effect, the desire to reduce costs takes precedence over environmental protection (66% compared to 62%) when they are asked to judge whether these considerations constitute a “very good reason” for encouraging energy efficiency. Thus the expectations of the British with regard to energy efficiency focus on the immediate, financial aspects. The prospective, political aspects are in contrast less pointed up.

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