EDRC’s ‘Call to action on energy demand’ – The final countdown

News 19 March, 2024

Do you remember what your favourite song was when you were a teenager? Octopus Energy thinks that hearing an old favourite tune provides a nicer experience for customers on hold with the company’s helpline. Emma Fletcher from Octopus explained this strategy at EDRC’s ‘Call to action on energy demand’ event which took place on 5th March 2024 in London.

Our event was attended by 42 people from industry, policy, government, charities and think tanks, as well as our EDRC team members and UKRI funders. After an introduction from the event chair and EDRC Co-Director Sara Walker and myself, we heard from John Barrett, who leads EDRC’s Futures theme. John made the compelling case that the UK could reduce energy demand by 50% without this affecting quality of life. This demand reduction is paramount, given that 79% of energy use in the UK still comes from fossil fuels.

We then moved to a panel session, with panellists Louise Sunderland, EDRC’s Advisory Board Chair, from the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), IPPR’s Maya Singer Hobbs, and Emma Fletcher from Octopus. Louise reflected how UK policy frustratingly lags behind Europe, but there are still many opportunities that we can take in energy demand action. She highlighted energy efficiency measures, in particular, as obvious and simple starting points. Maya brought a transport angle, highlighting how issues such as the lack of public transport infrastructure impact on who can benefit from decarbonised travel options. She pointed out the importance of transport measures that make people’s lives easier, particularly when considering active travel options such as walking and cycling. Emma said that we need to make energy demand action fun, easy and local to people, so that it is easy to find trusted installers and encourage whole communities to take action.

The event took place in a historic Westminster building, home to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. EDRC’s Gesche Huebner was not the only attendee to note that the venue had numerous portraits of men in gilded frames and exhibits of car-related and other technical artefacts. She noted that “hearing presentations from so many brilliant, inspiring women discussing energy demand solutions that go beyond technological approaches felt particularly special in this space.”

So back to that favourite song, one of my favourites as a teenager was The Final Countdown by Europe. At the time of its release in 1986 it became an instant hit (despite all the odds some may say). If I were to hear that song while waiting on an energy company helpline, it would have a rather different meaning now in the era of climate change – apocalyptic yes, but perhaps also hopeful.

We need action on energy demand, as without demand reduction we cannot meet our climate targets. This is no doubt challenging, but we at EDRC want to highlight the range of opportunities in emissions reductions, energy security, cleaner air and reduced energy costs that this would bring. All of these opportunities are outlined in our Call to action on energy demand report. This is the message that we look forward to sharing with other audiences as we roll out our stakeholder events in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales during March and April.