Rishi Sunak has given the go-ahead for a public information campaign in the UK to encourage people to cut their energy bills by using simple measures such as turning down the boilers and switching off electrical devices during the day.
The Prime Minister is considering options to launch a public information campaign ahead of Christmas, designed to encourage people to use less energy at a time when the Government is paying tens of billions of pounds to cap gas and power prices.
The government has put a cap on the amount per unit energy suppliers can charge consumers so that a typical bill will remain at £2,500 a year until the end of March. It will then extend funding so that typical bills are £3,000 a year from next April, while capping the price of energy for businesses until next spring.
Sunak believes that persuading people to use less energy can save the treasury money while also encouraging households to adopt energy efficiency measures such as attic insulation. The Times newspaper reported that the campaign would cost £25m, but the authorities said that the expenditure on the scheme had not been finalised.
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, told the finance committee on Wednesday that the government wanted people to “change their behaviour” and reduce energy use. He said some households could save as much as £500 a year if they cut their energy bills by 15 per cent through more careful use.
Other countries such as France and Germany have launched energy-saving information campaigns, but Liz Truss, Sunak’s predecessor, blocked similar plans during her short-lived premiership.
Truss, a libertarian, believed that advising people about their energy use would demonstrate “nanny state” tendencies.
Energy leaders and academics had questioned why the UK had not already issued official advice on how the public can reduce energy consumption in light of the ongoing energy crisis.
Adam Bell, former head of energy strategy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, had described Truss’ decision to block a £15m public information campaign as a “complete dereliction of duty”.
Earlier in November, the government’s official climate advisers also told the chancellor in an open letter that the benefit to the treasury from better information on energy saving is likely to be “significant”.
Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator, said on Thursday that the country’s price cap – which dictates bills for most households – would rise to £4,279 a year for a “typical” household, but authorities are preventing this from being passed on to consumers.
The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on climate policy, had told Hunt that just by advising households to draw their curtains at night to keep in the heat, the Treasury could save as much as £7-34m.