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Media releases

Households could lose out in energy data revolution, fear UK energy professionals

20-06-2019

Professionals working across the UK energy industry have today delivered their verdict on the state of their sector in the Energy Barometer 2019, published by the Energy Institute (EI).

The annual survey of a representative sample of the EI’s UK membership for the first time highlights the challenges and contradictions facing policy makers and industry leaders in ensuring consumers get the most from rapidly advancing technologies.

The report finds:

  • Half of EI members believe promotion of the opportunities opened up by smart technologies for household consumers is needed to help capitalise on the lower bills and system benefits promised by these technologies.
  • Twice as many EI members believe energy companies, as opposed to their customers, will benefit the most financially from the data revolution in energy.
  • Although more than 60% believe tariffs that reward flexible demand will be attractive to householders, a similar proportion nevertheless believes that very few consumers will allow suppliers to control their appliances, even if financial benefits are passed on.
  • More than half believe public pressure is now a leading driver of decarbonisation, but a similar proportion nevertheless thinks domestic customers prioritise low bills over low carbon.
  • Tackling fuel poverty is rated year-after-year one of the least effective areas of government policy. A fifth of EI members fear the low carbon transition will inevitably push up fuel poverty, regardless of government interventions to help the most vulnerable.

At a Westminster launch event, the EI’s incoming President Steve Holliday FREng FEI said:

“The Energy Barometer is a window on the views of energy professionals in the UK, whose day-job is to provide and manage the energy on which we all depend.

“This year’s survey raises home energy alarm bells. There is real concern about how consumers – and the poorest in particular – will fare as the energy transition and data revolution progress.

“Technologies that promise a smarter, greener relationship with the energy we all use are advancing at breakneck speed. But, with more than 60% of emissions reduction needed for net-zero also requiring some form of behaviour change, poor communication could leave households in the slow lane.

“Ministers and industry leaders need to navigate these uncertainties with great care, to ensure these amazing new technologies deliver on their potential in our homes, for our energy system and the planet.”

This year’s Energy Barometer reflects on an eventful year for UK energy in which the energy price cap was introduced, coal-free records were repeatedly broken, two of the three new nuclear ventures stalled and renewables hit a third of the electricity mix. It also tracks opinion on key questions over the first five years of the survey.

Other highlights include:

  • Brexit is now at the top of energy professionals’ risk radars, identified more than any other concern and more than at any time since the EU referendum. The continued focus on Brexit is swallowing up political bandwidth, compounding perennial concerns among those working in the sector about UK energy policy.
  • Despite this, energy professionals are increasingly optimistic about meeting long-term emissions targets. Starting from a low base, 30% of EI members now think the UK will meet or exceed its current 2050 target, more than twice as many as five years ago. Falling technology costs are seen as driving progress but there is much still to be done in heat and transport. Opinion is divided on the economic impact of net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Energy efficiency is the first port of call for cost-effective, low-risk decarbonisation – a view repeated for the last three years and shared by professionals working in all areas of energy. Otherwise, renewables – offshore wind in particular – are the stand-out generation technologies of 2019, contrasting with pessimism around the delivery of new nuclear.
  • While 82% of EI members support incentives for system flexibility such as battery storage to accommodate the rise of renewables and other causes of variability on power networks, and 61% believe the UK could become a global leader in the field, there is frustration that a lack of political will and supportive regulation is holding back progress.

Published in digital form for the first time, the Energy Barometer 2019 contains additional video commentary from EI Fellows and other leading figures in UK energy including Juliet Davenport OBE HonFEI, Chief Executive, Good Energy; Prof Jim Skea CBE FEI, Chair of Sustainable Energy, Imperial College and Co-Chair of Working Group III, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Emma Pinchbeck, Deputy CEO, RenewableUK; Chris Stark, Chief Executive, Committee on Climate Change; and Dhara Vyas, Head of Future Energy Service, Citizens Advice.

Notes for editors

  1. For media enquiries contact Nick Turton on 020 7467 7103 or nturton@energyinst.org
    Energy Barometer 2019 is available on an embargoed basis at
    https://www.energyinst.org/barometer/2019.
  2. A series of questions on energy and consumers have been developed in partnership with researchers from the Energy Systems Catapult. They were asked of EI members as part of this year’s Energy Barometer and the results will be compared with responses from consumers themselves over the coming years.
  3. The Energy Barometer is now in its fifth year. This year’s survey was conducted in February 2019 among the EI College, a group of UK energy professionals drawn from the EI’s Fellow, Member and Associate Member grades, reflecting diverse sectors, disciplines and seniorities across the energy system. Full responses were received from 474 respondents, making the findings statistically representative (95% confidence level, 5% confidence interval) of the EI’s UK membership.
  4. The Energy Institute (EI) is the chartered professional membership body bringing global energy expertise together.
    We gather and share essential knowledge about energy, provide the skills that are helping us all use it more wisely, and develop the good practice needed to keep it safe and secure.
    We articulate the voice of energy experts, taking the know-how of around 20,000 members and 200 companies from 120 countries to the heart of the public debate.
    And we’re an independent, not-for-profit, safe space for evidence-based collaboration, an honest broker between industry, academia and policy makers.
    The EI is here for anyone who wants to better understand or contribute to the extraordinary energy system on which we all depend.