Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ministers plan energy use campaign to persuade us to save £400 on bills

A public information campaign encouraging us to cut energy usage by 15 per cent is to begin before Christmas. The aim is to save each household £400 a year.

Cutting consumption by 15 per cent is expected to reduce the nation’s domestic energy bill by £28 billion. Advice will include turning down thermostats by 2C, reducing the flow rate of boilers and installing energy-efficient lightbulbs.

In April the cap on average household bills is set to rise by £500 to £3,000. The government’s programme of energy bill subsidies will end in 2024.

The efficiency campaign, to be announced by Grant Shapps, the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, represents another government U-turn: Liz Truss blocked a similar scheme when she was prime minister. “We’re not a nanny-state government,” said one of her ministers at the time.

The Treasury scorecard from the autumn statement makes no provision for government support for energy bills beyond the next financial year — despite projections that costs will remain significantly above average levels for the rest of the decade. Government sources have said that this is because no decision has been taken on whether to extend the guarantee beyond March 2024.

However, it is understood that Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has decided the scheme must end.

A senior government source said: “This is a contract with the public where, if you are middle class, the government is helping you this year with £900 off your bills and we will be helping you again next year with £400 off your bills, but after that it’s going to be left up to you. Most families can reduce their energy consumption by 15 to 20 per cent by smarter energy usage and insulation — so we need them to take responsibility for that.”

Disquiet among Tory MPs over the autumn statement continued to mount yesterday, with several warning that Rishi Sunak and Hunt’s plans to raise the tax burden to the highest level since the Second World War could spell electoral disaster for the party.

One senior backbencher said the biggest concern among figures on the right of the party was the lack of detail in Hunt’s plans for how to expand the economy. “What we’re left with is a high-tax economy for the indefinite future.”

Hunt is understood to have contacted a number of likely rebels before a vote on the Finance Bill, which will require Tory MPs to vote for tax increases.

He said last week he wanted Britain to cut energy usage by 15 per cent by 2030 to reduce bills, catching up with European neighbours already prioritising such measures.

He announced that the government would spend £6 billion from 2025 to 2028, on top of the £6.6 billion already being provided until 2025, to help improve energy efficiency, including for public buildings and industry. Funding will also be available for further insulation schemes.

The government source added: “The state will deliver about half of the 15 per cent efficiency savings required . . . and then the good citizens of Britain will have to rise to the challenge. They have a big market incentive, which is higher prices.”

In August the EU passed a regulation under which member states agreed to reduce gas demand by 15 per cent from the average consumption of the past five years by March next year. In Germany shop doors are being closed to save heat, advertising billboards are switched off at night and a ban has been imposed on heating private swimming pools. In France owners of buildings are being encouraged to set thermostats to 19C for occupied rooms, 16C for unoccupied rooms and 8C for premises empty for more than two days.

A government source said the UK was preparing to copy its European neighbours, adding: “We won’t do exactly the same package, because we do not face quite the same energy security problem, but it will be a similar approach.

“We have to have a national plan that essentially transitions us to cheap, green energy and is not dependent on what dictators do on the opposite side of the world.”