Going on protests and signing petitions to convince governments and other organisations to change their behaviours is one response to fears of a climate emergency. However there are other things that most people could and probably should do. Reviewing and take action on reducing energy use in our homes is one that anyone who cares about the planet can do, without waiting for others.
The average UK home produces around 3.7 tonnes per year of Greenhouse Gases, with two thirds from burning mainly natural gas for home heating and cooking and one third from electricity use, from electricity generated in fossil fuel power stations. This means that UK homes are responsible for around 100 MtCO2e per year or 22.4% of all emissions (See Table 1 below for full details). What steps should you take.
STEP 1: Find Your Annual Gas & Electricity Usage In kWh
Your energy supplier should be able to tell you your annual energy use, of both gas and electricity in kWh. Alternatively just add up the last year’s worth of bills. If your combined gas and electricity usage is below 5,000 kWh per year then you can consider this significantly better than the average home and feel justified in spending some time on climate emergency protests rather than thinking about your own home’s inefficient use of energy.
STEP 2: Compare Your Annual Energy Usage With Similar Properties
The National Energy Efficiency Database gives details of all types of properties in England & Wales. Use the Great Home calculator at: great-home.co.uk/average-energy-consumption-calculator/. The national average for all homes is about 17,000 kWh per year – 13,700 kWh gas & 3,400 kWh electricity.
If the Great Home calculator shows your home uses a little less energy than the average for your property type then, whilst you are to be congratulated, don’t think you are saving the planet in any meaningful way. Move into Step 3 and consider what actions you can take rather than attend that next climate emergency demo.
STEP 3: Consider Different Ways To Reduce Your Annual Energy Usage
This can be the more difficult bit. If you rent or do not own the property you are living in then it can be hard to make significant alterations to gas usage, as it depends on home insulation levels. If you are a homeowner then look at what is achievable on your existing home:
- Read: Energy Efficient Homes: Eco Houses, Zero Carbon Homes And Passivhaus
- Read about alternative methods of heating: Chancellor Confirms A Ban On Gas Boilers In New Homes From 2025
STEP 4: Walk The Talk – Put Carbon Reduction Into Practice In Your Home
Implement the improvements necessary to reduce annual energy usage in your own home to below 5,000 kWh. Then help others to achieve the same!
Whilst lobbying to change government policy can make a difference in a decade or so, if your home consumes more than 5,000 kWh in gas and electricity each year then you are arguably part of the problem rather than the solution. Take action today. It won’t be easy but then achieving something worthwhile rarely is.
The author is happy to have a dialogue with those committed to making practical changes in their own energy consumption.
Table 1: Greenhouse Gas Emissions UK 2018
|Emission by Area||2018 (p)|
|Energy Supply – domestic*||34.4||7.7%|
|Energy Supply – industry & other consumers*||63.9||14.2%|
|Change in land use, forrestry||-11.3||-2.5%|
|Other greenhouse gases||84.4||18.8%|
* assuming equal emissions per TWh
- BEIS (2019). Statistical Release: National Statistics 2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Provisional Figures. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/790626/2018-provisional-emissions-statistics-report.pdf [Accessed 9 September 2019]
- BEIS (2019b). UK Energy Statistics, 2018 & Q4 2018. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791297/Press_Notice_March_2019.pdf [Accessed 9 September 2019]