53 per cent of people have never heard of a smart meter, DECC survey reveals
Green policy news – by GreenWise staff
9th July 2012
More than half of the UK public have never heard of a smart meter while many of us are still not taking simple actions regularly to save energy in the home, the first survey of its kind by the Government reveals.
The poll, the first in a series to track and understand public attitudes
to priority areas of the Department of Energy and Climate Change
(DECC), found a clear gap between many of these and those of the public. Cutting energy usage
and energy bills
are both top priorities of DECC, yet 53 per cent of the public said they have never heard of smart meters
and many admitted to not taking regular action to reduce their energy use in the home.
And despite action
by the Government and the energy regulator last winter to make it easier for people cut their energy bills by switching suppliers, the survey of over 2000 people in March this year, showed a majority (63 per cent) admitted they would not switch supplier within the next year.
Smart meter rollout
The Government is planning to rollout 53 million smart electricity and gas meters to all UK homes and to two million smaller businesses from 2014, at an estimated cost of £11.7 billion. It says the policy
will deliver over £7 billion net benefit to the nation. In May, Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: "Smart gas and electricity meters will play a key role in bringing our energy management into the 21st century […] giving us more control over how we use our energy at home and at work, helping us to cut energy consumption, save money and reduce carbon emissions."
But despite the scale of the policy and the potential benefits of the smart meters to reduce energy usage in homes and businesses, DECC’s survey found awareness and interest was still limited with 53 per cent saying they had never heard of them and 41 per cent saying they had heard of them but didn’t have one. Moreover of the six per cent that did have a smart meter, 30 per cent said they had not been offered an in-home energy display or energy monitor by their energy supplier and of those that did, only 15 per cent referred to the display on a daily basis. The Government has stipulated
that it wants all homes to have an in-home display when smart meters are rolled out.
Lack of action by the public
The 'DECC Public Attitudes Tracker’ also revealed that many people are still not taking regular action to cut their energy consumption. Of those surveyed, 52 per cent admitted to leaving lights on when they were not in a room either always, regularly or occasionally and 64 per cent said the same about boiling the kettle with more water than was required. As many as 20 per cent of those surveyed admitted to never washing their clothes at 30 degrees or lower and 19 per cent only occasionally. Meanwhile, 40 per cent said they never or only occasionally tried to keep rooms they were not using at a cooler temperature than those they were, and 26 per cent said they always or often left the heating on when they were out for a few hours and 25 per cent said they did so occasionally.
The poll, meanwhile, revealed low levels of awareness among the public about renewable
heat technologies, with 64 per cent saying they had either never heard of or thought about installing an air source heat pump and 83 per cent saying they had never heard of district heating or heat networks. This is in contrast to the Government’s recent heat strategy
that suggests that heat pumps and heat networks could play a major role in slashing heat emissions from our buildings and factories between now and 2050. Heat accounts for a third of the UK’s carbon emissions.
The survey also showed there was low awareness among the public about carbon capture and storage, with 64 per cent of people saying they had never heard of it.
One particularly bright spot in the survey was the high support for renewable energy among the British public, with 79 per cent of those polled saying they supported renewable energy to supply their electricity, fuel and heat and 55 per cent saying they would be happy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in their area. The findings are particularly significant in light of internal Government wrangling over support for renewable energy, with the Chancellor George Osborne understood to be looking to slash subsidies for onshore wind by 25 per cent and DECC Ministers resisting such a high cut.
The research did not track specific Government policies, such as the Green Deal, despite concern among businesses that public awareness and interest remains low in the energy efficiency
scheme set to launch in less than three months time. However, the survey did track what measures people had taken to insulate their homes including loft and wall insulation and installing double glazing. It revealed that 65 per cent of people had already installed loft insulation or top-up loft insulation and 45 per cent had installed cavity wall insulation. A further 78 per cent said they had already installed double-glazing.
DECC conducted the poll between March 21 and 25 2012 using face-to-face interviews in people’s homes with a representative sample of 2,121 households in the UK. DECC said the survey would be repeated four times a year in order to track changes in public attitudes over time. A spokesperson for the department said the full value of the finding would only become apparent "when we have a number of waves of data".
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