UK to launch campaign to encourage people to reduce energy consumption

Government ministers fear that households may become complacent with a price freeze

An electricity meter at a house in West Yorkshire. British households are facing soaring gas and electricity bills. EPA
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The UK government is expected to launch a public information campaign to encourage people to take energy-saving steps this winter.

Ministers are said to be keen to work with energy suppliers to draw up a list of measures for households, amid concerns a price freeze will discourage Britons from being prudent.

Prime Minister Liz Truss has confirmed she will on Thursday announce a package of support to help households and businesses to deal with soaring gas and electricity bills. She is widely expected to freeze domestic bills at about £2,500 ($2,871). The assistance is reported to be worth up to £150 billion and is expected to be funded through borrowing as Ms Truss rejects a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has been given the difficult brief of steering the country through the cost of living crisis.

Ministers are said to be concerned about a possible increased risk of power cuts if households do not reduce energy consumption in light of the package of help.

A public information campaign would include advice for people to turn down their thermostats and turn off electrical appliances instead of leaving them on standby, The Times reported.

Such a drive would mark a noticeable shift in policy from the previous administration. Boris Johnson, Ms Truss’s ally and predecessor, declined to issue guidance for responsible energy use and instead left it up to households to decide.

Ms Truss, who was sworn in as prime minister on Monday, is focused on a two-pronged plan to tackle the energy crisis. This would deliver financial assistance to businesses and households and increase Britain’s domestic energy supply.

Cabinet minister Simon Clarke told Sky News that the government had to "look at every source" to increase Britain's energy supplies, including taking another look at fracking. This is the process of extracting shale gas by fracturing rocks with high-pressure water. Shale gas fracking in the UK was halted in 2019 and Ms Truss signalled a possible return to the controversial practice in her campaign for the Tory leadership.

"If we fail to act, if we don’t protect the economy against the shock of the size and scale we are talking about, then there is going to be enormous damage," Mr Clarke said.

“In these circumstances, I think the country will say and I think markets will respect that this is the most sensible thing to do.

“The government is clear that a fiscally responsible approach sits at the heart of our plans but we cannot fail to respond to the magnitude of the moment.”

Tackling the cost of living emergency is the first big test for Ms Truss as prime minister.

On Wednesday, the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 amid concerns about the scale of the borrowing required.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 9:24 AM