About the household energy consumption

energy consumption, energy efficiency, green deal, fuel povertyDid you know that by turning your thermostat one degree down, you can save no less than 10% off your power bill? Energy efficiency does not only depend on national and European energy policies, but also on public awareness and household consumption patterns. A recent study conducted by YouGov and Rexel showed that only one out of six Britons know precisely how much they spend on utility bills.

Unsurprisingly, cold countries are the first energy consumers in Europe

Household energy consumption widely depends on European countries. Inhabitants of Luxemburg are by far the biggest consumers, with 9.2 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per year per inhabitant. Scandinavian countries come next with 5.1 toe in Finland and 3.6 in Sweden. France (2.5 toe) is close to the European average, along with the UK (2.5 toe) and Germany (2.7 toe).

According to the French national institute of statistics and economic studies (INSEE), “energy expenses related to housing and transportation make up 8.4% of overall household consumption”. The share of energy in household expenses has been relatively stable in the last twenty years. In 2010, the average household spent an estimated 2,900€ on utilities and petrol. The share of energy is therefore equivalent to that of clothing or leisure and cultural activities.  The situation is more or less similar in the UK with an average energetic expenditure of 8,6% of annual wages (8,3% for culture expenditures). In the US, an average household spends 7% of its annual salary for energy and heating.

A growing concern about and awareness of individual energy consumption

The international review conducted by Rexel in October 2011 reveals that « a large majority of Europeans and Americans grant special importance to energy efficiency”. From one country to the next, 86 to 95% of respondents consider it an “important” issue, among whom almost two thirds deem it “very important”.

Fuel poverty, that is a situation where a household spends more than 10% of its income on energy, is a growing concern to citizens and consumers, according to the same Rexel study. Philippe Pelletier, head of the Strategic Committee on Building and Housing of the Grenelle Environnement (a multi-party debate in France on environmental issues), estimates that fuel poverty affects almost 4 million French households. According to a YouGov survey (April 2011), 6,3 million of Brits live in a situation of fuel poverty.

Besides public policies aiming at cutting energy losses by renovating buildings, private efforts to achieve improvements on one’s house’s energy efficiency make perfect sense. A thermal study can be carried out by certified professionals in order to assess the necessary works most suited to your house. Although the general public may not be familiar with them, government assistance schemes exist, such as the interest-free eco-loan created in 2009.

In the UK, the government launched in 2001 the « UK fuel poverty strategy », aiming at coping the fuel poverty issue. This policy was a relative success between 1996 & 2007 – with 1.7 million households leaving the fuel poverty status. Nevertheless, with a rough increase of fuel prices, 2012 is the sixth year in a row where the number of “fuel poor” households increases.  The D. Cameron government wants to erase the fuel poverty issue by November 2016 in the Kingdom. Through its ambitious “Green deal” policy, improving the energy efficiency of housing has become a national goal. In the US, fuel poverty encompasses more than 16 million homes. This topic depends mostly on state governments which are leading independently their own energy saving policy, in which Massachusetts and California are on top.

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