Francine Wickham, global marketing director at Fernox, discusses the importance of understanding energy usage in the UK and welcomes the Energy Bill Revolution - as long as it is implemented correctly.

It’s clear to see that the government’s flagship programme, the Green Deal – designed to tackle fuel poverty in the UK and improve the energy performance of our homes – has had nowhere near the level of impact needed to make a positive and substantial difference.

The domestic heating and wider construction industry has long debated the challenges faced with making the Green Deal work. Such challenges include lack of consumer awareness, a complicated financial system that means those who are aware of it fear attaching a ‘debt’ to their property, and homes that don’t fit neatly into the Green Deal’s requirements.

In addition to this was the government’s decision to revise its definition of what it means to be ‘fuel poor’ in 2013. Many people may still be unaware of these changes and although it doesn’t do anything to change the fact that fuel poverty is still a crucial issue, what it has done is help us take positive steps toward understanding domestic fuel consumption in the UK.

This understanding is crucial. Knowing how we use energy, identifying where potential savings can be made and investing in consumer education is absolutely necessary. For example, the old definitions of fuel poverty never took into account whether or not the homeowner was leaving their heating on all day – even if the property was empty.

The good news is that the success of the Cold Homes Week campaign has demonstrated what can be achieved when the industry is working together and driving consumer awareness, with hundreds of MPs now in support of the Energy Bill Revolution.

Essentially, the Energy Bill Revolution presents a practical solution to the situation we now find ourselves in – but as with any good idea it needs to be implemented properly and without becoming so tied up in red tape that it’s nigh on impossible to make happen.

And should this be the course of action, with funds taken from carbon taxes to help pay for upgrades, we also need to be sensible about the upgrades that we undertake.

Although upgrading insulation gains a lot of media attention and is viewed as an easier ‘sell’ to consumers, it should be positioned by government and industry as one of many simple and cost-effective options to save energy. We have campaigned for many years about the benefits of chemical water treatment in terms of keeping central heating systems clean and efficient, and this can go a long way in reducing a household’s energy bills. In fact, a 15% gas saving every time you heat up a room can be achieved by using Fernox Cleaner F3 and Protector F1 in a heating system.

However the government decides to proceed, it is clear that we need an informed and unified approach from the wider construction industry that includes consumer education and the promotion of the simple, cost-effective changes that can be made.