/ Home & Energy

Rewarding high energy users sends the wrong message

Young girl by radiator

The majority of us struggle with our household bills. While offering discounts for high energy users might help some, does it really deliver the government’s objective to ensure we cut back on our energy usage?

In October’s Which? magazine, we reported that energy suppliers cut the costs of gas and electricity units for higher users – sometimes as much as 30%. Surely a good deal?

However, what happens if you flip this deal? What if you describe it another way – people who use low amounts of gas and electricity could be paying 30% more than their energy guzzling neighbours?

Schemes to cut energy usage

Now the government says that it has cost suppliers £5.5bn to help us, the public, to cut down on energy in our homes by improving insulation. This is the industry which will spend over £11.5bn to provide us all with smart meters with the aim of helping us cut down on energy.

In January, we’ll be offered Green Deal finance to help us implement green initiatives in our home with the aim of – you’ve guessed it – cutting down on energy.

In fact the government has said that the energy market will need further financial investment to meet environmental targets which can only be reached if we cut down on the energy we use in our homes.

Use less, pay more

So energy deals that essentially run on the premise ‘use less, pay more’, really don’t appear to be such a good deal after all. Those who have made the effort to cut down on energy are not only being penalised but, like millions of consumers, are footing the bill for the billions of pounds being spent to try to get us all to cut down on the amount of gas and electricity we use.

Which? wants the regulator, Ofgem, to make all energy tariffs simple so that consumers can compare prices at a glance. One supplier, Ebico, is already doing this by just offering one tariff for gas and one for electricity with one price per unit (kilo watt hour, kWh). Imagine if all the energy suppliers did this and you could compare energy deal prices in seconds. Like a certain meerkat says, wouldn’t that be ‘simples’?

Are you a low-energy user? Do you feel your supplier is penalising you for trying to save energy?


I didn’t think I was a low energy user until I looked up the ONS’s average household consumption figures for Gas and Electricity a year or so ago.

Much to my surprise I found that I use almost exactly the national average amount of gas (which as I have a 33 year old G rated boiler and also cook by gas and do a hell of a lot of cooking including up to 500 Xmas puds for charity every year and dozens of cakes every summer to sell at open garden days seems quite ‘good’ to me) and I use rather less than the national average amount of electricity (which as I have 2 ponds with filter pumps running 365 days a year, 24 hours per day, an aquarium and an electrically frost-protected greenhouse, plus I still use a fair number of incandescent light bulbs and on open garden days have a Burco 5 gallon electric tea urn on the go for about 6 hours each time, also seems quite ‘good’ to me).

Having found out what the averages are, and that I fall on or below them, I realise that I’m actually a reasonably low user and I now understand why I’ve never been entitled to any of these “high volume user discounts” ……… but these discounts are all wrong. How on earth can it be in any way correct to encourage us to use MORE energy? The unit pricing structure is alsoo all wrong – the first X units are always priced more highly than the remaining uniots each quarter, surely to goodness it shoudl be the other way round.

As for tariffs, I use Ecotricity to get my gas and electricity and they only have one tariff for each and also no discounts for any payment types and no surcharges for any other payment types …. all suppliers should have this simple arrangement.

I don’t actually feel penalised but I do feel that there is no financial incentive to economise further.

Sophie Gilbert says:
25 September 2012

I don’t feel penalised for trying to save energy, but I feel victimised and fed up with being incessantly targeted by the media and various ecofascists out there, including at my place of work, regarding my “carbon footprint”, especially when I see shops with their lights on all night, public transport not being subsidised as it should, fruit and veg arriving here by plane, overpackaged goods, recycling facilities being inexplicably lesser in some areas than in others, brand new houses or redevelopment not being as ecofriendly as we have the technology to make them, etc, etc, etc. And some people lecture me about the kind of lighbulb I have in my house??!

There, rant over.


Couldn’t agree more: this is one of my main bugbears with CFL’s being compulsory: shops, offices, pubs, etc., can all go on using incandescents and they use millions of times more than domestic users.

That’s just an example – all commercial users are able to be profligate and wasteful whilst we are penalised and dictated to.

Agree totally with all your other points too Sophie.


Offices and shops have used fluorescent lighting and CFLs for a long time, but halogen downlighters have become increasingly popular in recent years. The only way they save significant energy is to burn out fairly quickly. I’m surprised by pubs continuing to use incandescent lighting for so long when many are struggling or have closed because they cannot compete with cheap booze from Tesco et al.

I cannot see why we should differentiate between homes and commercial premises, etc. regarding phasing out of incandescent lamps. The householder who pays the bills is more likely to choose to save money than those working in a shop or office.


It is disgraceful that high energy users should be rewarded with lower bills. If anyone is to be rewarded it should be those who use less.

As Sophie points out, there are many ways in which we can and should save energy and resources. What is needed is an integrated approach.


I like to think I’m a low energy user, my usage comes in at almost half the national average. No only am I penalised in the price per unit I pay, I’m also paying the same standing charge as a high user.

And I won’t be turning the thermostat any lower this year, 15 degrees is low enough for me.

I also feel penalised for already having loft insulation, when so many are entitled to it for free, why not reward me (and everyone else), for already having it.


Totally agree. It sounds as though you have done everything possible about getting best deal eg switch to better tariff (especially if you have been on the Standard for a long time), paying by direct debit, having online bills if appropriate and phoning in regular meter readings.

We agree that it isn’t fair.


Absolutely agree William.

My heating has never been above 15 since it was first installed in 1979. That’s quite warm enough for me and if I feel chilly I put a jumper on (or, now they are trendy and I’ve got one, a “onesie”!!)

I have loft insulation which I had topped up only last year (by a professional, not by a “free” cowboy form an energy company) to almost 1.5 times the current requirement.

I have Everest secondary double glazing in all but one room (not having windows changed as they are the originals, 85 years old, and a major feature of the house).

I don’t have cavity wall insulation as various energy-company sponsored installers won’t touch it due to an extension and the builders all tell me that this house is not suitable.

I have solar hot water heating.

I can’t do much more to save energy really, and I do far more than almost everyone else I know, so why should I either feel guilty (especially now I find that my energy use is actually below national average) or be penalised in any way?