Sarah Harrison,
Managing Director
for Corporate Affairs,
Ofgem
 
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — April 9, 2009 – Affordability remains the key barrier to preventing United Kingdom householders from making changes to their behavior to save energy, despite high expectations that the environment is to figure strongly in the future of energy, according to the U.K.’s regulator Ofgem.

This was one of the key findings to emerge from Ofgem’s recently formed Consumer First Panel – a group of about 100 domestic energy users recruited from across the nation to help inform the regulator’s policy decisions.

Many of the panel members saw infrastructural changes in both the home and the wider environment as likely with, for example, efficient heating systems, energy efficient appliances and improved transport infrastructure. However, most found it hard to imagine themselves making large changes, such as taking on domestic-scale electricity generation, without significant support from the government, even though most expected that “how we do things” in energy will change.

While a few acknowledged smart meters and micro-generation as potential ways of becoming more engaged with the energy market and being more energy efficient, larger changes were not generally seen as immediate or likely.

The panel members agreed that consumers need more information about energy efficiency and the support to empower them to make the “right choices.” They also felt that today’s young people were better educated on energy and environmental issues and more likely to have access to the relevant information to help them be more energy conscious.

But overwhelming and sometimes conflicting information on energy efficiency from suppliers, the media and the government was also felt to be a barrier to change.

Panel members also felt that greater government intervention is likely in the future, with mistrust of business exacerbating the need for this. Industry and government will need to work together – industry developing and innovating with the “safety net” of government regulation, allowing the market to be run by the “experts” (business) and regulated by the state.

“The panel report gives a good insight into likely consumer engagement with the future energy market as seen through the eyes of consumers today,” said Ofgem’s managing director for corporate affairs, Sarah Harrison. “This insight is valuable as it helps to shape Ofgem’s current work to make sure the energy market meets household consumers’ needs going forward.”