Using less energy is costing us more

loft insulationBarry Batchelor/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Government figures have revealed that we are making huge strides in reducing the amount of energy we use. In the ten years between 2001 and 2011 we cut back on an incredible 11% of energy use. The trouble is that it hasn't done us a blind bit of good - we're still spending 23% more on fuel bills.

So why bother?

Rising cost

The figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that gas and electricity spending rose from £28.8billion to £35.6 billion a year in this time. Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at, says this should come as no surprise: "In the last six years the average household energy bill has rocketed from £660 to £1,252 a year - a £592 or 90% increase. This is an astonishing hike that has put households under a lot of pressure."

So while a 23% increase in our spending is shocking amount, things would clearly be much worse if we weren't working so hard to keep usage under control.

Cutting back

Robinson says: "This last winter alone, more than eight in ten households cut down or rationed their energy use because of cost. Unfortunately, as this new information from ONS shows, many have been running to stand still with the efforts they are making to cut back on their energy use being outpaced by the hike in the cost."

She says the new figures reveal that we can't afford to dial down our efforts, saying: "What this demonstrates is the importance of now making our homes energy efficient as this will have the biggest impact on our usage and our bills. Consumers now have to understand that the only way energy bills are going is up and energy efficiency as one of the key ways to protect ourselves from these higher costs. "

There are a number of simple steps we can take. uSwitch recommends:
  • Standby - Turn appliances off, don't keep them on standby.
  • Draughts - Make sure you don't have any draughts. Seal off your windows and doors.
  • Full load - If you're using your dishwasher or washing machine make sure you have a full load.
  • 30 degrees - When you are using your washing machine, make sure you have it at thirty degrees.
  • One degree - Turn your heating down by one degree.
  • Curtains. Close your curtains when it gets dark to keep heat inside.
  • Boiling water - Only put as much water as you need in the kettle, so if you're making a cup of tea for one, don't fill it to the top.
  • Light bulbs. Use energy saving light bulbs.
  • Family - If you've got a family watch what you're children are doing - they're more likely to leave their appliances on in their bedrooms.
  • Energy grants - Talk to your energy suppliers or your local energy advisory centre. There's lots of money available for grants and financial help to install energy saving measures. The good news is that as energy providers race to meet energy efficiency targets, they are offering great deals including free insulation. In some instances you can even get cashback for taking up energy efficiency measures, so it's worth talking to your supplier about what you can get.
Of course, as uSwitch has pointed out in the past, axing the VAT on fuel bills would go a long way towards making things more affordable. In fact, 98% of us would support the idea, and a considerable proportion claim they'd use some of the savings to invest in energy efficiency.

But it may be safer to work on the assumption that it's up to you alone to find your own way to cope with the rising cost of energy - rather than waiting for government action any time soon.

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