Business

Households cut energy use by a quarter

gas ring
Image caption Consumers are cutting back on energy use, possibly because of rising bills

Households in England and Wales cut their energy use by a quarter over a six year period, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Average consumption of gas and electricity fell by 24.7% between 2005 and 2011.

Customers have faced steep increases in bills over the period, and may be economising as a result.

The regulator, Ofgem, said that bills have risen by 28% in the last three years.

But increasing use of energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, double-glazing and new boilers, may also be playing its part.

"This fall in consumption shows how effective it is to insulate your home," said a spokesman for Energy UK, which represents Britain's energy suppliers.

"Britain's homes are notoriously leaky and energy companies have been busy improving properties to make them warmer and easier to heat," he said.

Prices

The ONS said another reason for the fall in consumption might be the introduction of energy ratings for properties and for household appliances, allowing customers to make informed choices.

But it also noted the price rises.

According to Ofgem, the average duel fuel bill is now £1,420 a year.

In reaction to the figures, the consumer group Which? called on the government to do more to help consumers with their bills.

"Many consumers will have cut back in order to save money in the face of spiralling prices and squeezed incomes," said Richard Lloyd, the executive director of Which?

"Consistently, four in ten have told us that they plan to cut back on future spending on their energy bills," he said.

The ONS figures show that energy consumption is highest in England in the East Midlands, and lowest in the south-west of England, which has the mildest climate in the UK.

Figures published separately by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show that Scotland still has the highest energy consumption of any part of the UK.

But gas consumption in Scotland fell by 14% between 2005 and 2010, the figures from March 2012 showed.

Green Deal

The UK government is trying to persuade consumers to cut energy usage further.

Smart meters, which show householders exactly how much energy they are using at any one moment, are due to be installed in 53 million homes by 2020.

British Gas, the UK's largest energy supplier, has already installed 1 million such meters in UK homes, and is currently running a press and television campaign to raise awareness of the savings they can bring.

In January this year the government also launched the Green Deal.

Under this scheme, householders can take out a cheap loan to finance energy efficiency measures in their homes.

But so far there has been low take-up of the offer.

In 2008, during the period in question, the government also launched a publicity campaign to persuade householders to switch off appliances when they were not in use.

This included advice not to leave televisions on standby.

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