Government sets poor example on energy efficiency

In the month when the Government launched a new campaign to persuade householders to reduce their energy consumption, official figures have shown that it is well behind its target to cut its own energy consumption - and that carbon dioxide emissions from the Government estate have actually increased since the target was set three years ago.1

The target was set in 1990, when the Government promised to improve its energy efficiency by 15% between 1990/1 and 1995/6, as measured in terms of energy expenditure per square metre of floor area.

A progress report for 1992/3 was given in a parliamentary answer by Environment Minister Tim Yeo in October. The figures for each Department are shown in the table below. Data for the Ministry of Defence, by far the largest energy consumer, are not yet available. One or two minor entries have not been included but are taken into account in the overall totals.

The figures show that in 1992/3 the Government's weather-corrected energy expenditure per m2 was still 0.2% above that in the baseline year, 1990/1. The improvement since 1991/2 was just 0.6 percentage points - well below the 6% improvement needed by 1992/3 if the target is to be achieved at a steady 3% per year.

The energy expenditure per m2 of 11 Departments was below the 1990/1 level in 1992/3. But another nine showed an increase. Only four have reduced their energy expenditure per m2 by 6% or more since 1990/1.

The picture looks better when the figures are expressed in terms of carbon dioxide emissions per m2. The overall reduction over the two years was 6%.

However, in terms of absolute CO2 emissions, Government Departments emitted 2% more CO2 in 1992/3 than in 1990/1 - an improvement of just one percentage point since 1991/2.

The Department of the Environment has done rather well, noted Mr Yeo, reducing its energy expenditure per m2 by 5%, its CO2/m2 by 16%, and its overall CO2 emissions by 20% over the two years. At a meeting of Whitehall's Green Ministers on 13 October, he added, it had been "agreed that further improvement was required."

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