Comparing bills 'could cut costs'

BillsAllowing people to check on their neighbours' energy bills could help them cut as much as £70 from their annual gas and electricity costs, a report has suggested.

Evidence from the UK and abroad shows that households reduce their energy use when their bills are compared with more energy efficient neighbours, in a classic case of "keeping up with the Joneses".

A report by Policy Exchange said the Government's new energy efficiency subsidy, the Energy Company Obligation, which levies money from people's energy bills to support measures such as insulation, should be extended to schemes influencing behaviour.

Eligible schemes could involve home energy visits that show people where they are wasting energy, better leaflets on how to cut bills and comparisons of energy use.

The centre right think tank said energy companies could allow households to anonymously join the scheme, which would let them compare their bills with people living in similar sized properties.

A trial in Camden, London, helped people reduce their bills by 6% through a combination of comparing bills and energy efficiency advice at a cost of just £3 per household. With an average household dual fuel bill of £1,260, this could lead to savings of more than £70.

Schemes in the United States have seen an average reduction of 2% by sending bills to households which compare their costs with an energy efficient neighbour.

Guy Newey, the report's author, said: "Helping people to cut their rising energy bills and avoid wasting energy is one of the most important things the Government can do.

"Smart meters have the potential to help change the way we use energy in the home. But they won't change habits on their own.

"Households need support to understand where they can make savings. If you find out your neighbour is paying £50 month less for their energy, you're much more likely to do something about reducing your own energy use."
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