A nationally representative survey of 2,058 British adults conducted by ComRes on behalf of the National Energy Foundation revealed how much the British public really knows about energy.
It found around two-thirds of British adults (64%) do not know the most effective way to make a typical home energy efficient – adding loft insulation.
This is despite three people in five (56%) saying they would be confident in making improvements to their home to make it more energy efficient.
Although three British adults in five (58%) say they feel well-informed about energy issues, the same proportion (59%) also say that they do not know the majority of the UK’s electricity supply comes from fossil fuels.
British adults are also not consistent in their estimation of energy consumption across a range of everyday household items. While a majority (61%) assume the correct energy consumption for a light bulb, less than half accurately estimate the energy consumption of appliances such as a power shower (44%), a kettle (42%), an electrical convector heater (42%) and a tumble drier (38%).
Only half (50%) of those surveyed correctly identified which type of light bulb uses the least energy – LEDs are the winner here – but some 35% incorrectly thought that low-voltage halogen lights use the least.
Lack of knowledge
The survey also found three people in five say they know how much energy their home uses (58%). However, only one in 10 (11%) said the same of their place of work. Business leaders look to private companies to train their employees to use energy more efficiently (79%), and to the government for education of the public (76%) and in schools (73%).
Three-quarters (73%) of the UK’s adults say they regularly seek information about energy issues. The most important of these sources are news and documentary programmes on the TV and radio (42%), online searches (32%) and through communications directly from energy companies (22%).
Most people say they would like to reduce their energy consumption, either because of the financial cost of using energy (cited by four people in five, or 81%) or because of the environmental impact (cited by seven people in 10, or 70%).
To address these issues, the National Energy Foundation has launched “Working together towards an energy-literate UK”, a programme encompassing 10 “Big Ideas” projects.
The foundation is looking for potential delivery partners and funders to get the projects off the ground, and is interested to hear from those who might like to get involved.
Dr Kerry Mashford, CEng FIMechE FRSA, is chief executive of the National Energy Foundation