The UK’s energy regulator has told households “all of us should be thinking about how to reduce our energy use where possible” amid fears over potential power cuts this winter.
Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, announced the industry would launch a public information campaign, telling the Energy UK conference on Thursday that “this isn’t the time for complacency” as energy costs continued to rise.
Brearley said Ofgem was working with “the energy sector and interested groups to help consumers navigate this information, and we will shortly be launching a campaign to explain the support that is available, on how to reduce energy consumption, and what customers should expect from their providers”.
The marketing drive comes after the government blocked a state-led information campaign.
He said that reducing energy consumption was “not only the most direct way of reducing our bills [but] it directly helps with security of supply, contributes to decarbonisation, and saves money for the public finances”.
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As part of the campaign, Ofgem will collaborate with groups, including Citizens Advice, to ensure information reaches as many households as possible.
Brearley cited recommendations by the Energy Saving Trust for consumers, which include only having their heating on when required, turning off lights when leaving a room, and switching devices off standby.
Liz Truss’s government last week blocked plans for a public information campaign to encourage people to reduce their energy use, saying it would seem like the actions of a “nanny state”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, had reportedly signed off on a £15m campaign before it was scrapped by Downing Street.
Andrew Ward, the chief executive of ScottishPower’s retail business, said a public information campaign should be implemented. “I cannot see a logical reason why you would not do it,” he told the conference in London.
The decision was made despite fears that households could experience a series of three-hour power cuts this winter if Vladimir Putin shuts off gas supplies from Russia or Britain experiences a cold snap, according to the National Grid.
Brearley assured the industry and consumers that the regulator did not expect power cuts this winter. He said: “I understand why the media coverage has concentrated on the worse-case scenario preparations. So, to be clear, we do not think a supply emergency is likely. But it is incumbent on a responsible and prudent energy system to be as ready as it can be for any challenges we might face – and that is what the public expect of us.”
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National Grid’s warning caused concerns among health leaders that rolling power cuts could endanger thousands of people who use life-saving machines at home.
Brearley said the regulator had emphasised to energy firms that they must examine their priority services register, which offers support for people in vulnerable situations, and ensure they were able to give advance notice of planned power cuts.
“We have been clear with suppliers that they must take their obligations very seriously,” he said.
The speech was the first made by the regulator’s chief executive since Truss’s government announced it would spend up to £150bn to reduce energy bills for households and businesses.