Energy Efficiency Requires Behavioural Change

Energy efficiency needs a call to action, especially among young people.
Published: Mon 23 Mar 2015

A lot has been done towards energy efficiency but there is still a long way to go, states Tim Pollard, head of sustainability at heating and plumbing product distributor Wolseley UK.

In an interview at Low Carbon Scotland 2015, Pollard said that people can see the logic of energy efficiency, but inertia is the easiest choice. “We need a call to action – to educate and show people what’s possible and to make it easy for them to do, then we will have a chance of making some of the challenges come true.”

And for Pollard, “finance is the gamechanger. If you want to get people’s attention you talk about the pound in their pocket. That grabs the attention.”

Energy efficiency solutions

Pollard says that there is no one energy efficiency solution. Virtually every circumstance is unique and will depend on the nature of the building lived in, its location,  which way it faces, number of occupants, and for how long in the day it is occupied.

“What this means is we need a variety of different measures – like a menu, so one can select what’s most appropriate and affordable.”

Energy efficiency for medical facilities

As an example of an energy efficiency project underway Kathryn Dapre, Energy and Climate Change manager at NHS National Services Scotland, also a speaker at Low Carbon Scotland 2015, mentions the organization’s Strategic Energy Efficiency Programme (StEEP).

The programme is intended as a holistic approach to energy efficiency across the complete NHSScotland estate and has been under way for approximately 18 months to date. “It’s a proactive approach rather than a reactive or piecemeal one,” explains Dapre, saying that energy audits have been done (on 85 sites) and business cases developed and now the focus is on developing the framework for delivery. The first projects are expected to be started within the next 6 months.

Dapre says there are two main barriers that need to be addressed to accelerate the programme. One is funding, with NHS rules preventing borrowing, and the second is the slow approvals rates for projects. “If we can tackle the funding and approvals issues that will go a long way to achieving our goals,” she says. Instead projects will be funded through energy performance contracting. “We need to be more challenging about legislation and make tough decisions about the harder to treat buildings, then the goals are eminently achievable.”

Dapre also comments on the need for a behaviour change among the NHSScotland clinical staff, saying the focus is on the seamless core business with the links between public health and climate change and energy efficiency. “There is empirical evidence that in energy efficient buildings, people work better and there is less absenteeism. We are trying to get staff interested in that and to see energy efficiency as a public health issue, and if we can get them on board that will go a long way.”

Energy efficiency targets

Commenting on energy efficiency targets, Pollard says that Scotland’s energy efficiency ambition “embarrasses” other parts of the UK and to set hard targets is a bold step.

More generally he believes that by 2020 loft insulation will be in all houses, saying that a lot of houses already have it, although there is a lot of “topping up” to do with the recommended insulation material thickness having changed. However, more serious is the houses without a cavity wall given the costs and technical complications of altering solid walls.

“But I am hugely optimistic, and we have a fantastic opportunity, especially if we engage with young people and get them to understand the future is in their hands.