Slightly invasive visits from thermal camera-brandishing eco-surveillance firms, card games, and subsidized re-insulation campaigns aren’t the only things that have prompted U.K. homeowners to decrease energy consumption by an impressive average of 24.7 percent over the last several years.

The key motivation for the household energy reduction amongst residents in England and Wales is much more primal — it has a lot to do with the terror/disappointment/panic experienced by many homeowners when they receive sky-high wintertime heating bills.

According to a recent report (PDF) released by the Office for National Statistics, the quarter reduction of natural gas and electricity usage between 2005 and 2011 is tied in part to the fact that prices for utilities rose by an average of 28 percent over that period. Because really, nothing quite promotes thermostat vigilance and investing in energy-saving home improvements in the midst of a recession than upward creeping utility costs.

Naturally, decreases in household energy consumption over the six-year period varied from region to region with the West Midlands seeing the greatest reduction at 30 percent. And the soaring cost of heating a home isn’t the only factor a play according to the ONS: Home improvements including all-important re-insulation, public awareness campaigns, the introduction of mandatory energy ratings for homes and appliances, and the emergence of more efficient boilers and HVAC systems have all contributed to the downwards trend in energy consumption.

Overall, average energy consumption amongst homes in England and Wales dropped from 26.2 megawatt hours (mWh) in 2005 to 19.7 mWh in 2011.

"Britain's homes are notoriously leaky and energy companies have been busy improving properties to make them warmer and easier to heat," trade association Energy UK told the Guardian in reaction to the recent study.

While an average 25 percent reduction in household energy consumption over a six-year span is certainly a cause for celebration, there’s also a dark side.

Due to the aforementioned increase in utility costs paired with a weak job climate, some homeowners, particularly those who can’t afford to embark on efficiency-related home improvement projects, are simply going without heat altogether to save.

Price comparison service uSwitch explains to The Guardian that seven out of 10 households went without heat to keep soaring utility costs down while a third of homeowners believed this was adversely affecting their health or quality of life.

A spokesperson for uSwitch explains: “These figures show the true impact of higher energy costs — people are choosing to go without rather than risk racking up a huge bill. As the cost of energy has soared so too have the number of households forced to ration their use."

Thus far, Green Deal, the British government's flagship energy efficiency scheme launched back in January, is off to a sluggish start as only one home has been subject to a retrofitting package as part of the low-upfront cost program. Out of thousands upon thousands of assessments performed as part of Green Deal, a mere 133 households have signed up for the program with a couple hundred more expected to participate.

Via [Quartz], [The Guardian]

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