Energy bills: Couple discuss the increase in their prices
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Gas and electricity consumption data for 2021 show huge variations in annual usage across England, Scotland and Wales, with some local authorities reporting figures more than double those in others. The long-term consumption trend in Great Britain was found to be one of decline – as the country’s appliances and homes become ever more energy efficient. Despite this, prices have been going up – especially in the past year – and show little sign of easing.
Energy prices have been the number one culprit behind the rising cost-of-living throughout 2022, as inflation sits at 10.5 percent going forward into 2023.
Under Ofgem’s price cap system, household energy bills went up by 54 percent last April, 27 percent in October and are set to increase by a further 20 percent at the end of March when the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will be raised to £3,000.
The energy crisis has brought renewed attention to the role gas and electricity play in household budgets, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has responded by publishing consumption statistics for all councils in Great Britain over the past 18 years.
Which areas use the most? Find out how national usage has evolved over time and which neighbourhoods use the most today with our graphs and maps below…
According to figures released by the BEIS on Thursday, mean electricity consumption per household in Great Britain has been decreasing steadily since 2005 – excluding a slight uplift in 2020 when multiple lockdowns kept people indoors – and is 20 percent less today.
This is most likely due to the fact that a wide range of household appliances – from tumble dryers to toasters – have become considerably more energy efficient over the years, to the point where the UK’s energy rating system needed a rehaul in 2021.
Plotting electricity usage per local authority reveals stark differences in consumption patterns around England, Scotland and Wales. The lowest consumers were Rushcliffe in the East Midlands (2,763kWh), the City of Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire (2,784kWh) and South Oxfordshire (2,821kWh) in the South East.
On the upper end of the scale, the people of Flintshire in Wales were found to use more on average than anyone else in Britain by a considerable margin (9,012kWh). Residents’ mean household consumption was 234 percent higher than the national average.
Second-placed Wandsworth in London (8,640kWh) was also an outlier – at 225 percent of the average – while Conwy, also in Wales, came in third (7,493kWh).
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Separate BEIS figures show the average amount of gas consumed by British households since 2005 has fallen to an even greater degree – by over 30 percent.
Gas central heating remains by far the most common way Brits heat their homes – accounting for 74 percent of the total. Britain’s housing stock has long been among the oldest and least well-insulated in Europe, but the Government has made home Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) improvements a key focus in recent years.
Mapping gas usage by council also lays bare a consumption gulf between certain parts of the country. At the bottom of the scale, Plymouth in the South West (9,290kWh), Tower Hamlets in London (9,352kWh) and Cornwall (9,887kWh) were found to be the most economical gas consumers.
All of the 15 local authorities where gas consumption was lowest were in either the South West, London or the South East. However, affluent neighbourhoods across the South East also feature heavily at the other end of the spectrum.
The biggest gas users in Britain in 2021 were Elmbridge in the South East (18,212kWh) – almost double that of Plymouth – East Renfrewshire in Scotland (17,274kWh) and Tandridge, also in the South East (17,093kWh).
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Slumping consumption may also be a reflection of the squeeze on household budgets. Over the same time period, the price of electricity in the UK shot up by 294 percent, while the price of gas increased 248 percent – and these energy price inflation figures notably exclude the huge spike of 2022.
If the average amount required by British homes has been falling, why haven’t prices followed suit? Among the many possible explanations, the country’s overall reliance on gas holds the most weight.
Gas still provides just under 40 percent of the country’s electricity, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), despite the rapid emergence of wind power and other renewables. According to Trading Economics, the wholesale price of gas in the UK soared from 30p per therm at the start of 2005 to 170p per therm by the end of 2021.
According to the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem, wholesale prices make up the largest share of household energy bills, accounting for between 40 to 45 percent of the total.
Since then, after shooting up in 2022 as a result of Russia restricting its exports to international markets, wholesale prices are back below that level, but household bills remain unlikely to tumble any time soon.
Senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies Mike Fulwood said relief was unlikely “until 2026 or 2027 when we get a lot more supply of liquefied natural gas on the market.”
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