London, UK— METERING.COM — 28 November 2008 – The United Kingdom government’s science think-tank has proposed regular energy audits for homes – nicknamed Home MOTs after the acronym for motor vehicle road-worthy tests.

The think tank, Foresight, is to release a report suggesting a number of new ways to meet the country’s carbon emission targets over the next 50 years.

The report calls for less centralized, smaller-scale energy production as well as the use of "intelligent metering" in homes and businesses, to show the real-time costs of different types of energy. Energy efficiency audits of buildings – which account for half of all energy use – would also help meet the targets for CO2 emissions.

The report says that radical solutions are needed if the UK is to diversify its energy use, to meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 2020. It observes that customers and suppliers are locked in to centralized energy production and inefficient consumption.

The report calls for incentives to encourage greener local energy production and more effective measures to get consumers to use less energy. "Rather than making roads safer, these would make our future climate safer," says Professor Yvonne Rydin from University College London and one of the report’s authors. "One of the problems is that people are not fully aware of the energy they are using and the cost of that energy to themselves and to the planet."

The Foresight team is led by Professor John Beddington, the government’s chief scientist. He says that an MOT-type energy assessment could be tied to penalties and incentives to encourage homeowners and businesses to adopt energy-saving technologies.

One problem, according to Professor Jim Watson of Sussex University, is that currently smart meters aren’t very smart. "You can have the most exciting digital display you like but if it can’t display what the electricity or gas costs are at different times of day then it’s a ‘dumb’ smart meter," he says. "In order for it to be fully smart you need meters connected to the electricity supply network getting real-time information about energy costs."

As well as harnessing technology, Professor Beddington says, policy makers need to think about encouraging a cultural shift in attitudes to make wasting energy as anti-social as smoking. "I think with the appreciation of the population of the real issues of climate change – and the real dangers that failure to address it bring with it – there is a potential that you will get a change in social attitudes and I think that will be enormously important".