Saving energy is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions and our contribution to climate change. It is therefore vital to UK and Scottish energy policy – in fact, it will be very difficult to meet the UK’s goal for reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 without huge gains in energy efficiency. The UK Government estimates that up to 40 per cent of the energy that we use is currently wasted.
Energy can be saved in a number of ways. The easiest and cheapest way to save energy is by ensuring that it is conserved wherever possible through common-sense actions. This includes turning off lights and appliances when they are not needed, and ensuring that thermostats are set at the correct temperature so that heat isn’t wasted.
After energy conservation there is a big role for energy efficient products and appliances. White goods, such as fridges and washing machines, now carry European energy efficiency labels, which will tell you how energy efficient the product is. Products with an A, A+, or A++ rating are the most efficient, and consumers are being encouraged to buy these products – saving energy and money in the process. Consumers are also being encouraged to consider the energy efficiency of other products, such as TVs, computers, and hi-fi equipment.
Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings is now a top priority. Buildings waste huge amounts of energy through bad design, poor insulation and inefficient boilers. With 70 per cent of the UK’s housing stock in 2050 already built, it is essential that we tackle the energy efficiency of existing buildings, whilst at the same time improving building regulations so that new developments are to the highest standards.
It is now possible to construct buildings that result in zero carbon emissions by using the latest insulation methods and by incorporating micro-renewables. Older buildings can often be cost-effectively renovated – measures such as enhanced loft insulation, draught proofing, and cavity wall insulation are very popular, and there are often discounts available from energy supply companies.
Energy efficiency in the home can dramatically reduce fuel bills, and therefore plays an important part in efforts to reduce fuel poverty. The Energy Saving Trust can offer further advice on energy efficiency in the home, and has a grant database so that householders can find out about any offers that they might qualify for.
Finally, businesses are also being encouraged to improve their energy efficiency, whether they are involved in heavy industry, retail, or are primarily office-based. Large manufacturing facilities can often achieve huge reductions in carbon emissions by adopting the latest technology, and offices and shops can frequently save large amounts of energy through straightforward energy efficiency measures.
The same is true for the public sector, including schools, hospitals and council buildings. There is targeted support available from the Carbon Trust for businesses and public sector organisations looking to save energy.