The week after the Green Deal was introduced, YouGov found that nearly 40 per cent of people had heard of it. I think that’s pretty good going for a government policy that doesn’t tell you much from its name, and sounds like it might be a suspicious way for the government to take more money from you.
More interestingly though, the poll also found that while energy costs are the biggest single worry in household bills (thanks, Treasury team, for those low interest rates), most people don’t think energy efficiency is a good way to reduce them. One other snippet is that people believe it’s the energy companies’ job to reduce bills. Does this indicate that people don’t see a connection between consumption and cost? Or perhaps it’s just that people don’t know how good energy efficiency measures are?
There are lots of things people can do to reduce their energy consumption – insulating roofs is the big one, but also things like stopping draughts, double-glazing, better boilers, wall insulation, more efficient appliances, energy-saving lightbulbs, turning off taps and reducing the water pressure in showers can all help.
Obviously that all sounds like a bit of a hassle (and of course if you rent and/or live in a flat, as so many of us do, there’s a limit to what you can do). But there are loads of grants and offers to make it easier; one of my favourite new Tory ones is that if you install loft insulation, the enormous task of emptying your loft can be done for you.
Perhaps the most useful intervention though is one that doesn’t cost anything. For years, the Conservatives have talked about energy saving and climate change. Somehow, the link was rarely made explicitly to reductions in the cost of living. One of the most important yet often ignored aspects of modernisation (and I’ll be coming back to this in other areas) is that it can and must make that link between the big, global and seemingly irrelevant to voters’ daily lives issues and what does matter to them.
I have a feeling I’ve written this somewhere before though I can’t find it, but I once saw a TV programme where the Prime Minister asked for policies with local, national and international impact (I think it ended up being banning cars for a day a week) – that’s exactly how we need to explain these big challenges. Otherwise people either don’t see how they can contribute anything or can’t see how they themselves will benefit.
Climate change IS a huge, international problem. The little we can do as individuals might not seem worth doing. But if we can see the personal benefits of, for example, cutting our energy bills, then all of us doing a little bit might actually add up to quite a lot.