The Prime Minister recently pledged to reduce harmful emissions by 68% by the end of the decade with a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Energy use has also been affected by the pandemic, with more time spent at home and reduced traffic on the roads.
As these changes are likely to impact how we all live, work and travel for years to come, OFTEC, the trade association for the liquid fuel heating industry, has set out five energy trends households should look out for. This includes:
- Over 50% of households are aware of smart heating systems so expect to see more of these devices in the home. Smartphone and voice-controlled thermostats are becoming more affordable and sophisticated with AI technologies detecting when you are at home and optimising your energy usage accordingly, helping households save money, The rollout of smart meters is also accelerating with just under 15 million installed, providing households with greater insight into the most energy demanding devices at home.
- Over 65.9 million tonnes of carbon is produced by UK residential properties each year which means the way we heat our homes has to change. Oil heated homes that are not connected to the gas grid could switch to a renewable, low carbon liquid fuel made from recycled cooking oils and other waste with minimal upfront cost or disruption. This green 'biofuel' is currently being tested in real homes up and down the country and could play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions by providing a practical, cost-effective solution for heating off-gas grid homes.
The year of electric cars
- Whilst the pandemic has seen declining sales across the car industry, the popularity of electric vehicles has soared with purchases increasing by 160% compared to the previous years. The government has also announced a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035. As prices come down, more public charging points become available and battery ranges increase, expect to see more electric vehicles on UK roads.
Changing working habits
- Over 90% of UK workers would prefer to continue working from home even after lockdown restrictions are lifted, a recent survey found. With many businesses adopting remote working and virtual meetings, there is little sign this trend is set to change. Whilst this may lead to an increase in energy usage at home, savings will be made through smaller offices and less commuting.
Fuel poverty challenges
- Currently over 2.5 million households in the UK can't afford to pay their energy bills. With many businesses struggling during the pandemic and job losses rising, unfortunately fuel poverty may increase over the coming months and years. There is government support available, such as winter fuel payments, but it's essential additional provisions are made to support the most vulnerable and that any changes to how we heat our homes to tackle climate change do not disadvantage those on low incomes.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: "The pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions fundamentally changed many aspects of our lives overnight. Whilst there is now hopefully some light at the end of the Covid tunnel, we may see some trends continue for years to come such as remote working and reduced travel to and from the office.
"As we all spend more time at home, households will inevitably look to reduce their fuel bills and become more energy efficient. Attention will also turn to the energy sources we use. Now, perhaps more than ever, greener heating solutions need to be affordable and practical to ensure sufficient take up to help reduce emissions. For oil heated homes, the most effective way to do this is to 'green the fuel' with a drop-in low carbon replacement, whilst continuing to use the existing boiler and oil storage tank."