By Simon Brammer, Ashden UK Programme Manager
In case you missed it, last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the results of a detailed study of household power demand, revealing worrying upward trends. For example, it found that standby consumption in a household currently amounts to 9-16% of UK domestic power demand, contrasting to a previously estimated 5-10%.
If we are going to achieve the significant cuts in energy use that are critical to tackling the dual challenges of peak oil and climate change, we need to tackle the issue of how people perceive and use energy in their homes.
But how to break through the prevailing ennui?
One of the things I like about the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)’s recently published Home Energy Handbook is that it doesn’t shy away from technical terms: ‘U-values’, ‘convection’, ‘conduction’, ‘Passivhaus’. Instead, it explains the terms and why you need to understand them, illustrates them with an easily digestible diagram, and then provides the solution to your problem. It's like the Haynes Manual to energy in your home.
Unlike other advice books I have read, it's also empowering. It tells you about how to go it alone or better still, how to set up a community energy project and do it with your neighbours and friends - then just when you start thinking I’m not sure I could do that, provides an inspiring case study that says, Obama-like, yes you can!
This is really important because if we are going to make progress in this, we need to understand the value of energy. And what better way to go about this than involve communities in an experiential journey to conserve and generate more of this precious resource? Many of our other UK Award winners point to the importance of getting people involved in understanding how they use energy and motivating them to make long-term changes to their behaviour.
Personally speaking, I took the book to bed with me and was so engrossed in it I didn’t put it down until 2.30am! It’s not only a great resource for homeowners and communities but also for policy and decision makers too, because it demonstrates that with just a little imagination, lots of cooperation and the know-how, revolutionary things can be achieved. And we really need a little bit of energy revolution.
CAT won an award in 2011 for helping to train the army of skilled workers the UK needs to transition to a low-carbon economy.
You can buy the book here.