You only have to look at the quantity and tone of coverage of last week’s Ofgem report to develop an idea of the growing importance of the energy agenda in the UK. Energy has always been an emotive subject; after all, in the developed world, heat and power are deemed human rights. However, in the context of the global warming concerns that have made their way to the mainstream in the last decade, energy is now a dominant force in the political and media agenda. For a PR consultancy like us with a specialist energy practice, this public appetite is clearly good news: there’s a real opportunity to communicate our clients’ stories and insight to an engaged audience. But it goes further than that. In order for the UK to meet its targets of a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2020, widespread consumer buy-in is vital. Smart metering, for example, is a key part of the overall strategy. But smart meters on their own do not reduce energy consumption – they merely enable users to do so, by being more aware of their usage. And this is why consumer education and dialogue is so important. The opportunities for the consumer here are many: • Using less energy will save them money (not to mention the environment) • Utilities will be in a position to offer more consumers tailored pricing models without the issue associated with estimated billing, and consumers will be in a better position to challenge utilities to improve their services • Consumers can play a more active part in deciding how and when to use energy because they will have a more accurately broken down bill • Smart meters pave the way for a number of exciting other technologies in home automation, not to mention the integration of renewable energy sources The arguments about climate change are increasingly well accepted. The next public relations job is to make sure the consumer is fully engaged and empowered. A clear explanation of the personal and social benefits of programmes like smart metering must be a key part of government strategy. It might just prove the difference between success and failure.
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