Rishi Sunak has authorised an £18mn information campaign to persuade the British public to save energy ahead of the cold winter months.
The prime minister’s predecessor in Downing Street, Liz Truss, had resisted on libertarian grounds spending any money on a push to encourage saving energy. But the new prime minister wants to reduce power use at a time when the state is subsidising gas and electric prices at a cost of tens of billions of pounds after they spiked because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government said the public information campaign, called “Help for Households”, would offer technical tips and advice for people to cut their energy use while still staying warm.
These will include measures such as draught-proofing windows, turning down radiators in empty rooms and reducing boiler temperatures. The government will say that if a typical household cuts its boiler flow temperature from 75C to 60C and turns down radiators in unused parts of the house, it could save £160 a year on its energy bills.
Grant Shapps, business secretary, will also announce a new £1bn “ECO+” scheme to insulate the least energy-efficient homes, on top of an existing £6.6bn of expenditure on insulation by the government during the current five-year parliament. That is an extension of an existing “Energy Company Obligation” (ECO) scheme which began in 2013.
Jeremy Hunt, chancellor, announced another £6bn of funding for insulation for the three years from 2025 to 2028 in his recent Autumn Statement — an increase in annual investment.
Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association, welcomed the targeting of £1bn for those homes most in need of work, but cautioned that the government’s decision to announce the scheme at the end of November meant that it was “unlikely to make a dent this winter in lowering energy bills”.
Labour said the government’s announcement fell far short of its own “Warm Homes Plan”, which would invest up to £6bn every year for 10 years on home energy efficiency improvements.
In 2020, the government launched the Green Homes Grant, another home insulation scheme, which intended to retrofit 600,000 homes. The scheme was criticised by homeowners and builders for its excessive bureaucracy and cancelled a year later after retrofitting fewer than 45,000 homes.
Separately, Shapps is thought to be close to announcing the go-ahead for “Great British Nuclear”, a new body that will oversee the building of new nuclear power stations including a fleet of small nuclear reactors proposed by Rolls-Royce.
GBN was first announced in April by former prime minister Boris Johnson — with hopes that it could have a budget of close to £500mn — but it has been dogged by political chaos, delays and resistance from within the Treasury. “There are only so many times we can re-announce the same thing,” said one government aide.
Rolls-Royce has been pushing ministers to enter talks over potential funding models and on how the technology could be deployed so it can start building factories. The first reactor would probably need a funding model underpinned by the government or bill payers.
The company is in early-stage talks with energy-intensive users as potential customers, including data centres that use a lot of electricity.
Read More: Sunak signs off on £18mn public information campaign to save energy