Rishi Sunak has given the go-ahead for a UK public information campaign to encourage people to cut their energy bills using straightforward measures such as turning down their boilers and switching off electrical devices during the day.
The prime minister is considering various options for launching 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 capped the amount per unit of energy suppliers can charge consumers so that a typical bill remains at £2,500 a year until the end of March. It will then extend funding so typical bills are £3,000 a year from next April, while also limiting the price of energy for businesses until next spring.
Sunak believes that persuading people to use less energy could save the Treasury money while encouraging households to take up energy efficiency measures such as loft insulation. The Times newspaper reported the campaign would cost £25mn but government aides said the expense of the scheme had not been finalised.
Jeremy Hunt, chancellor, told the Treasury select committee on Wednesday that the government wanted people to “change their behaviour” and reduce their energy usage. He said some households could save as much as £500 a year if they lowered 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 shortlived premiership.
Truss, a libertarian, believed that advising people on their energy use would demonstrate “nanny state” tendencies.
Energy executives and academics had questioned why the UK had not already released official advice on how the public can reduce its energy consumption in light of the continuing energy crisis.
Adam Bell, former head of energy strategy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, had described Truss’s decision to block a £15mn public information campaign as an “utter 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 Exchequer of better information on energy savings was likely to be “significant”.
Ofgem, Britain’s energy regulator, on Thursday said the country’s price cap — which dictates bills for most households — would rise to £4,279 a year for a “typical” household but the government is preventing this from being passed on to consumers.
The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on climate policy, had told Hunt that merely by advising households to draw their curtains at night to retain heat, the Treasury could save as much as £7mn-£34mn.