NEF supports Plumb Center manifesto

Author: Kerry Mashford 30/10/2013

Our Chief Executive, Kerry Mashford, was invited to speak at the launch and in support of the Plumb Center (Wolseley) manifesto for a more energy conscious society at the House of Commons on 28 October. The manifesto urges behavioural change to reduce energy bills, and includes a number of wide-ranging recommendations on energy efficiency, water efficiency and training and accreditation. Here's what she said...

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today and to lend the support of the National Energy Foundation for the Plumb Center manifesto for a more energy conscious society.

The National Energy Foundation’s primary objective is ‘improving the use of energy in buildings’ and with buildings accounting for over 40% of all UK energy, we collectively have lots of potential to help the UK reduce its CO2 emissions, reduce energy bills and tackle fuel poverty.

Just taking the straightforward micro-economic case, paying for energy is a large and increasing proportion of household spend and business cost, and many of our fellow citizens are struggling to heat their homes to a comfortable level.

At the National Energy Foundation, our technical and human factors expertise enables us to help people avoid energy waste and maximise the benefit from the energy they use. Whatever the short-term ups and downs in UK energy prices, over time, prices will inevitably rise. But higher prices need not mean higher costs; if we become more energy conscious and energy savvy.

We need to:

  • Improve the fabric efficiency of buildings – both new-build and retrofitted - so that they take less energy to heat (and cool).
  • Minimise the performance gap – improving knowledge and skills and feeding back from practice into design.
  • Better manage the use of energy in buildings. One of the first things I invite people paying energy bills to do is to ask themselves ”How much energy is your building using when you are not using it?”
  • Adopt an intelligent use of renewable energy technologies and systems.

I often compare a house to a car. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Ford, Honda, Mercedes, Jaguar or Vauxhall, they all have to perform according to their published specifications. When we buy a car, it has been developed and tested by experts, by engineers and human factors specialists. Its emissions are regulated and manufacturers have to demonstrate that it satisfies emission limits by testing it through a range of operating profiles, and you can’t sell a car if it doesn’t pass the tests. Manufacturers and dealers also quote miles per gallon and running costs, including servicing.

When we buy or rent a house, we do none of these things. The design has only been tested ‘on paper’ and the gap between the designed and the delivered energy performance can easily be three or four fold - that means homes needing three or four times as much energy to run than expected.

As householders, we may agonise about energy costs but that’s often as far as it goes – as a society, we’re not energy literate when it comes to our homes. We have no idea of the ‘minutes per kW/hour’ for running our houses – the equivalent of m.p.g. for cars. And we don’t have a basis for either comparison with similar properties or for redress if our homes don’t perform as expected.

In conclusion then, I hope you can appreciate why the National Energy Foundation is pleased to offer its whole-heated support for Plumb Center’s manifesto for a more energy conscious society, and we look forward to working with Plumb Center, Wolseley and many of you in this room to bring about the changes that are needed.