Consumers need government support to change energy habits, report warns

The Scottish Government needs to set out a ‘route map’ of how it intends to persuade Scots to change their consumer behaviour if it wants to meet its targets on climate change, according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

While lending its support to the government’s targets, which include a pledge to cut carbon emissions by 90% by 2050, the charity warned that meeting them will require all consumers to make significant changes to the way they use energy.

A survey carried out for CAS last year found that 73% of Scots believe climate change needs to be addressed urgently, but only 13% felt that reducing their electricity use would have a significant impact in achieving this.

In its research CAS identified seven key behaviours which individual consumers will need to adapt to meet ambitious climate change targets.

In many of the key behaviours studied in detail in the research, there are positive outcomes for consumers over time with, for example, reduced bills and improved health and well-being. However the charity warned that a number of key behaviours rely on consumers making an upfront financial investment which may act as a barrier to both consumers (despite the fact that they would benefit from the change) and subsequently to the Scottish Government in meeting its emission reduction targets.

The key behaviours identified in research commissioned by CAS were:

  1. Upgrading domestic heating
  2. Completing energy efficiency retrofits
  3. Install of smart meters
  4. Switch to electric vehicles or ultra-low emission vehicles (EVs/ULEVs)
  5. Adopt energy saving behaviours (heat)
  6. Adopt energy saving behaviours (electricity / water)
  7. Purchase energy efficient appliances

Publishing the report, ‘Changing behaviour in a changing climate’, CAS energy spokesperson Emma Grant McColm said: “We strongly support the targets set out in the government’s Energy Strategy. They are ambitious, but that is as it should be. With our wealth of natural resources Scotland is well-placed to be a world leader in building a greener, smarter energy landscape.

“However, our concern is that these targets will not be met unless Scots consume less energy in their daily lives, and this will not happen automatically.

“In the Citizens Advice network we spend a lot of our time trying to persuade people to adopt energy-saving measures to help cut their fuel bills so we know that people are often reluctant to make these changes. Some are not aware of how to do so, and others need additional support, including financial assistance.

“We believe Scots will be willing to play their part in tackling climate change if they are encouraged to do so. What is required here is a route map from the government, setting out how they intend to put Scotland’s consumers at the heart of their climate change policy and enable them to change their behaviour in the way we all want to see.”