Earlier this year, Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat secretary of state for energy, hit a new low in proposals to deal with Britain’s inadequate and pricey energy supply. In a startling new insight, he declared that the government would pay factories to shut down at times of peak demand, that no economic activity would be curtailed by such a measure, and that it was ‘cheaper than building new power stations’.
Now he has gone one worse.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have just published a report with the oxymoronic title Powering the Nation 2: Electricity use in homes, and how to reduce it. It pretty much does to households what Davey’s earlier scheme proposed for factories. True, the government won’t pay you to switch off the TV, lights and other appliances in your home; but, to save on Britain’s consumption of energy, it would like you to buy smaller TVs, if you’re a working-class telly addict. And, if you’re middle class, it would like you to stop buying big fridges.
‘We cannot make informed decisions about electricity generation’, the report pompously declares, ‘without also understanding the potential for efficiencies and savings from households… This relies on robust data and analysis.’ What the authors – researchers at Loughborough University and consultancy firm Cambridge Architectural Research – mean by this turns out to be simple. Manufacturers of household appliances need to improve the energy efficiency of their machines – despite the fact that, according to DECC itself, they have been doing exactly this.
Old people and poor people (or members of Britain’s ‘claimant culture’, according to the classification quoted from the market research company Experian) need to stop using electricity to heat their homes, and switch to gas instead. And everyone should cut back, so that, in sum, energy savings equivalent to ‘more than the annual output of two large (1.5 GW) power stations’ can be made.