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Shoppers ‘can’t afford’ energy efficient cars, homes - researchers

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Europeans can slash their fuel bills and have a significant impact on curbing global greenhouse gas emissions by buying more energy efficient cars, homes or even fridges – but many do not because of higher initial cost of green products, mistrust in EU energy ratings, and lack of awareness of long-term savings, researchers say.

Less than 2% of properties sold in Ireland between January 2017 and October 2018 were A rated – the highest energy efficient rating for homes – despite many technologies available to upgrade homes. And just 11% of dishwashers and 14% of fridges sold in 2018 in Spain were of the highest A+++ energy rating for appliances. The findings come from a project called CONSEED, which investigates what encourages people to buy energy efficient appliances, houses and cars.


Researchers have been trying to find out why people do not opt for the greener products. In a consumer survey carried out by CONSEED across five countries (Greece, Ireland, Norway and Slovenia), up to 74% of the 3,000 respondents said they could not afford more efficient cars or appliances, or the costs of upgrading their homes. Lack of trust was another major factor, with 60% of people believing that sellers of cars, properties and household appliances are manipulating the energy efficiency information they provide.


Households make up around a quarter of Europe’s total energy consumption and produce a fifth of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, it is important that consumers make good choices when buying since energy efficiency is the easiest way to save energy, it is the most efficient and the cheapest. To help people make better informed purchasing decisions, the EU is simplifying its energy efficiency labelling scheme by introducing a scale that runs from A to G rather than A+++ to G. The new labels will also include QR codes which people can scan to get more information about the products’ energy use. CONSEED researchers are also recommending that the EU includes a way for customers to report their experiences in a new product registration database. Nudging people with clear labelling and information is important but it does not go far enough, said Massimo Tavoni, professor of climate change economics at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, who leads a project called COBHAM.


An important step to changing people’s habits is to help them take control of their energy use by producing understandable fuel bills and putting meters in homes that help people better monitor their energy usage. EU countries have committed to rolling out nearly 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas by 2020.


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