KPMG: Scots attempts to save energy fail to prevent bills shock over winter
New research from KPMG, as part of its Consumer Pulse survey, shows that nine out of 10 bill payers in Scotland made changes to reduce energy use between October 2022 and February 2023.
However, despite the attempts to cut back, over two thirds (69%) of Scottish households said that their bills were higher than expected over that period.
In October 2022, the Government capped energy prices at £2,500 for an average household and provided at least £400 in support payments. Alongside the financial support, the Government also launched an awareness campaign to help households reduce their energy use through a variety of energy saving measures.
KPMG surveyed 250 bill paying adults living in Scotland during March about how energy prices impacted their behaviour between October 2022 and February 2023 finding that almost all respondents (88%) made changes in an attempt to save energy over the winter months. Despite so many looking to reduce energy use, over two thirds (69%) of bill payers still agreed that their energy costs over the winter were higher than they expected, and for third (34%) they were significantly so.
While almost all respondents said they made some attempts to reduce the energy they used, over half (56%) of Scottish billpayers said they also made upgrades to their homes, and the same amount (54%) purchased energy efficient gadgets to keep energy costs down this winter.
When comparing the most popular actions respondents said they were taking to the potential annual savings that could be made, most people opted for switching off lights (48%) which only had an estimated annual saving of £25. In contrast, two of the most cost-effective measures, which could each save around £100 a year were not used as widely by Scottish households: limiting hot showers (18%), and reducing their boiler flow temperatures (18%).
Energy efficient gadgets proved quite a popular way to save money. According to the research one in five (20%) households in Scotland purchased an air fryer over the winter, while 21% bought a heated blanket.
Similarly, the research highlights that the second most popular way to reduce energy use was to use the oven less (43%).
Other ways of reducing energy use included
- Turning off or unplugging appliances at the mains (42%)
- Wearing more layers, or warmer clothes (39%)
- Turning off radiators in certain rooms (22%)
Simon Virley CB, vice chair and head of energy and natural resources at KPMG in the UK, said: “Reducing demand and improving energy efficiency couldn’t be more important in getting bills down and ensuring people can heat their homes properly, especially as we have some of the leakiest houses in Europe. Record energy prices have clearly provided the impetus for households to consider how they can save energy, but there still needs to be better information and support out there to help consumers understand the most effective ways to do this.”
Those investing in energy efficiency measures opted for upgrading to LED lighting (26%), nearly a fifth (17%) added insulation, a similar number (22%) upgraded to double glazing, while one in 10 invested in carpets (11%). For those opting for gadgets, also on the shopping list were smart thermostats (17%), smart plugs (10%) and heated air dryers (11%).
Across the UK, those under 45 were more likely to have purchased items to help manage energy costs, with three quarters (73%) of those in this age range buying an energy saving gadget, compared to just 44% of those aged 45 and above.
To help manage the extra energy costs, 39% of respondents reduced spending elsewhere, and around one in six (15%) used savings. Others cancelled their direct debit to pay only what they were using (22%), while three in 10 (31%) built up credit over the summer to cover higher usage in the winter.
One in six (17%) said they were not able to make any savings elsewhere and are going to struggle to afford the extra costs, with some respondents saying they had to choose between using their gas or electricity or limited themselves to just one room in their house.
Despite the Government having up to 10 different support schemes listed on the help for household website, almost a quarter (23%) of respondents felt that they hadn’t benefitted from any of the schemes over the winter, even though at least two of them were universal.
Mr Virley added: “As we now head into spring, it is just as important for the Government to be thinking about what follows the current universal support package for energy bills,” While wholesale prices are expected to continue to reduce over the coming months, energy costs next winter will still be far higher than they have been in recent years. It is important that the focus turns to targeting future support on those who need it most.
“At the same time, addressing the energy efficiency of our homes ahead of next winter needs to be a priority, as it is the best way to permanently reduce bills, improve energy security, and tackle climate change.”