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Energy efficiency: the missing piece

Energy efficiency is the glaring #missingpiece in our nation's battle against the climate crisis

  • Less than 3% of all media and social media conversations on climate change in the last two years make any mention of energy efficiency
  • However, if every household took action on energy efficiency now, we could achieve 11% of the UK's 2050 carbon target
  • Three in five Brits would try to do more to prevent climate change if they better understood the actions they could take
  • Smart Energy GB is working with Chris Packham and the University of Salford to raise awareness of energy efficiency as the #missingpiece in the climate change conversation
  • The campaign calls on politicians, the media and the public to turn their attention to energy efficiency and its importance in solving the climate crisis
  • By getting a smart meter installed, you're taking one step to help fill in the #missingpiece

A new campaign from Smart Energy GB, the university of Salford and the Energy Saving Trust reveals less than 3% of our conversations about climate change mention the topic of energy efficiency. Yet, if every household took action on energy efficiency now, we could achieve 11% of the UK's 2050 carbon targets.

The remaining 97% represents a glaring absence in climate change conversations which has left a #missingpiece in the nation's bold efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. the campaign calls on politicians, the media and the public to talk about the impact that being more energy efficient can have on meeting the nation's climate change goals.

Supported by conservationist, TV presenter and campaigner Chris Packham, the #missingpiece campaign highlights how infrequently energy efficiency is referenced in climate change discussions in Parliament, the media, TV documentaries and on social media in the past two years. It also explores the British public's awareness of climate change, their understanding of energy efficiency as a crucial element in the battle against climate change, and their willingness to engage in measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Research found:

  • Only 2.61% of 24,429 climate change stories in national news sources focused on energy efficiency
  • Whilst energy efficiency was mentioned 466 times in Parliament, just 0.27% of MPs Tweets highlighted the topic
  • Energy efficiency received zero mentions in IMDB's synopses of television documentaries released in the UK
  • A mere 0.12% of the public's 3.2 million Twitter posts about climate change included any reference to energy efficiency

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a huge 95% of the public care about protecting the environment and are keen to do more. 62% believe it is individuals' responsibility to tackle climate change and are already playing their part - with the most common action being recycling or reusing products (75%).

However, as a nation, there is a distinct lack of understanding about the role of energy efficiency, and the impact that it could have on achieving our climate change goals:

  • 61% of the British public would be more inclined to try and prevent climate change if they better understood what they could do
  • Less than a fifth (19%) of Brits think that having a smart grid (which uses data to make the nation more energy efficient) would have the biggest impact on stopping climate change
  • Just three in 10 (30%) think that being more energy efficient would have the biggest impact on protecting the environment; Being part of a smart grid was second from bottom in a list of actions people believe the public could take in their homes to help the nation be more energy efficient, only just head of keeping curtains closed at all times (9%).

One of the easiest ways to be more energy efficient is to get a smart meter installed. Just as smart meters help households to become more aware of their energy use and take steps to reduce it, the same is true at a national level. By pooling all the data from the nation's smart meters, a smart energy system can prevent waste at source by making far better assessments of the nation's energy needs. This reduces our carbon footprint and contributes to the ongoing battle against climate change.

In addition to smart meters, there are other ways to become more energy efficient:

  • National rollout of building fabric improvements so that homes use less energy for heating and cooling
  • Improvements to the efficiency of the appliances we use
  • Smarter controls for our heating and appliances

Smart Energy GB is working with Chris Packham to raise awareness of the importance of the #missingpiece and encourage everyone to take action by getting a smart meter installed.

Chris Packham said:

"Never before has the climate and environmental emergency been on so many people's lips. Having campaigned for many environmental issues, I know the impact that TV programming, public debate and media coverage can have on awareness levels and positive behaviour change. We're reducing our consumption of single use plastics and we're making our homes more eco-friendly.

"Now we're calling on politicians, the media and the public to help fill in the missing piece by including energy efficiency in the climate change debate. But talking alone is not enough. One small step we can all take today to become more energy efficient, individually and as a nation, is by getting a smart meter installed - they're the foundation of a smart energy system."

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO, Smart Energy GB, concludes:

"We are facing a climate crisis. The UK wants to lead the world with our commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But, we have a lot to do if we really want to meet that goal.

"Unless we transform our climate change conversation and talk about real changes in the way we use energy, our commitment to reach zero carbon won't be worth the paper it is written on. If every household took the energy efficiency measures available right now, together we could achieve 11% of the UK's carbon target."

Join the conversation #missingpiece.


Notes to editors

To download the report, go to

Consumer understanding of climate change

4000 UK adults surveyed by OnePoll July 2019

Prominence research

The prominence research look at the frequency of climate change conversation and the extent such discussions also refer to energy efficiency across four areas:

  • Mainstream media in UK daily news sources, regional newspapers, news broadcast coverage (TV and radio) and magazines;
  • Documentaries by reviewing the synopses of UK documentaries released between July 2017 and July 2019 on IMDB. This was supplemented by 'Subtitles to save the world' BAFTA albert research released in May 2019;
  • Politics through searches of debates carried out in the House of Commons and House of Lords (Hansard), Scottish Parliament (The Official Report) and Welsh Assembly (The Record). An analysis of MPs Tweets was also conducted;
  • Social media through analysis of UK Twitter mentions.

For all channels, the date range for analysis was 28 July 2017 to 28 July 2019, using the same keywords to maintain consistency. However, consistency in date ranges was not possible for regional newspapers, news broadcast coverage and magazines as only one year's worth of analysis was possible due to data restrictions. These channels have therefore been removed from final analysis.

Impact research

The overarching aim of the 'impact' research conducted by the Energy Saving Trust was to "understand the extent to which energy efficiency in homes will play a role in meeting the UK's carbon targets, and how easy it is to make positive changes". The research included a literature review of the existing, publicly available resources to extract and compile the most relevant and reputable information sources.

To generate the 54 million tonnes carbon savings, the following methodology and assumptions were applied:

  • The total electricity and fuel savings in Terawatt hours for the measures available for improving the energy efficiency of existing UK housing stock were taken from the Rosenow et al 2018 study "The remaining potential for energy savings in UK households". this study looks at the potential energy savings for implementing energy efficiency, projected out to 2035.
  • The fuel savings were calculated by taking the proportional fuel mix of energy used in UK households (e.g. what percentage is gas, electricity, oil etc) to weight against the fuel savings total. This step was required as we do not have the exact breakdown of the "fuel" mix used in the study.
  • The Terawatt hours were converted to kilowatt hours in order to calculate the carbon emissions.
  • A carbon factor for the different fuels (e.g. gas, oil) were applied to the energy saving of each fuel.
  • For the electricity savings, a carbon factor averaged over 2017 to 2050 was applied to reflect the decarbonisation of the grid over time.
  • This provided values in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.
  • By combining the electricity and fuel savings we arrived at 54 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents and compared this to the current carbon emissions in order to calculate the percentage contribution towards meeting the net-zero target by 2050.
  • For the equivalency statement, the total of the household carbon emissions was divided by the number of homes in the UK and apportioned to the savings calculated.

About smart meters and the rollout

Britain is committed to a cleaner future - one with zero carbon, zero emissions and reduced pollution.

To make this happen, our nation requires a major upgrade to its energy infrastructure, specifically, it requires the creation of a smart energy system. Smart meters, which replace traditional, analogue meters, are the building blocks of a more reliable, clean and affordable energy infrastructure, allowing Great Britain to better manage energy use, transition to mass uptake of electric vehicles and to build a greener economy.

There are 14.9 million smart meters installed in homes and microbusinesses across Great Britain. Every household in England, Scotland and Wales can now see their energy use in near real time, receive accurate bills and do their bit for the planet, by requesting a smart meter, at no extra cost, from their energy supplier.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the campaign for a smarter Britain. It's our task to help everyone in great Britain understand smart meters, the national rollout and how to use their new meters to be cleaner and greener with their energy use. Our national campaign is reaching households and microbusinesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit our website

Smart Energy GB media contacts

For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the Smart Energy GB media team: [email protected]