Debate over cost of energy is rather missing the point


According to ‘The Times’ Londoners pay half the price for a kilowatt of electricity than they would pay in Copenhagen.

Ed Miliband has a simple solution to this problem. It is that we freeze energy prices for a year or so.

He paints a picture of giant power companies making too much profit and proposes that they must be forced by law for a period to keep prices unchanged.

He has not said what happens when this freeze ends, since without further Government intervention, we must surely presume that the energy companies will want to make up any lost ground.

It is interesting to note that our gas and electricity market is providing us with energy prices that are about the average for Western Europe.

However, there is one major contrast – those people in Copenhagen who pay more per kilowatt but actually use less electricity.

This may be down to some Scandinavian determination to be particularly Spartan, but by and large it would seem to be down to how well Danish homes are insulated.

So doesn’t all the talk about the cost of energy rather miss the point?

The chief problem is not what we pay per unit of electricity but how much total energy we use.

Far too many of us in Britain still live in houses with poorly insulated attics and single glazed windows.

Our homes are among the draughtiest in Europe, wasting tens of billions of pounds a year.

The Government has recently tried to get us all to take up its Green Deal which offers loans and energy bill rebates to tempt householders into fitting insulation.

West Sussex County Council has, in response, set up the Energy Saving Partnership to promote the Green Deal with the aim of delivering energy saving measures to up to 680,000 households over the next 25 years.

However, many commentators in the national media are highly sceptical about the Green Deal.

A recent report said that less than 400 people nationally had shown any interest.

Maybe there will be more success locally.

The overriding fact still appears to be that people generally seem to prefer simply turning up the thermostat than investing in insulation to make savings over a longer period and cutting their bills.

I very much hope that as part of this current debate about energy costs, the Government will re-examine how we are to get better insulated homes.

The poorest people simply have not got the money to invest in insulation materials so maybe we need to look to housing associations to step in much more.

Though even here for the associations there is a trade off - higher insulated homes cost more to build.

So what is their priority?

Is it for housing associations to house the most people for the money they have available or to house fewer people but give them cheaper energy bills?

The same type of question applies to any house purchase or to the energy efficiency of any electrical goods we buy.

How many of us actually give more than passing attention to all those energy efficiency tables that the Government says must be displayed whenever we buy a house or even a new washing machine?

For those who are able to afford to pay for more home insulation for longer term gain, there will either come a time when the cost of electricity and gas is so high that we simply can’t afford to ignore insulating our homes any longer or maybe, through greater education and awareness, we become more like the Danes!