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The least energy-efficient cities in the UK

November 14, 2013

With a swathe of recent energy price hikes hitting households in the UK, it’s worth taking a look at the cities widely regarded as being the least energy efficient. With rising fuel costs and cheap energy seemingly a thing of the past, it’s time for these regions to take some positive action.

1. Belfast

Various studies have been carried out since the year 2000 to determine the energy efficiency of the UK’s largest 20 cities. Independent reports published in 2007 and 2012 both cited the Northern Ireland capital, Belfast, as being the least energy efficient of all the major cities. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveys found that the average level of emissions in Belfast fell by just 4% over a prolonged period, compared with a UK average of 12% – perhaps more worryingly, emissions actually rose during one period! Approximately half of Belfast’s emissions came from domestic properties, indicating that a substantial amount of work needs to be done in implementing green initiatives in areas such as more efficient insulation, heating and lighting. The problem persists across Northern Ireland as a whole.

2. London

Understandably, the vast network of industrial and office complexes across London mean that the city has a huge amount of energy consumption. Studies have indicated that many office blocks and workspaces in cities across the UK are lit and heated overnight, when staff numbers are low; this contributes heavily to inefficiencies in energy usage. The Greater London area fares only marginally better than Belfast in studies of energy consumption and efficiency, meaning the nation’s capital has plenty of work to do to meet government targets for reduction of emissions by 2020. Whilst the enormous number of commuters and businesses across London means that the city is never going to be the most efficient in the UK, it can certainly look to European counterparts like Stockholm for ways to cut energy consumption and implement more efficient technologies and procedures in the future.

3. Nottingham

A 2012 British Gas study of domestic energy efficiency compared the housing stocks in 20 of the major UK cities and discovered that cities such as Nottingham languished near the bottom of the table: this is partly due to vast tranches of older housing but also a perceived lack of uptake of green initiatives. However the news is brighter, with a 2013 project set to boost cavity wall and loft insulation in 5000 homes in the Clifton area – a useful first step to combat rising fuel bills and improve efficiency. In the long term, an expansion of this would see cities such as Nottingham greatly improve their efficiency.

4. Portsmouth

While their neighbours in Southampton have unveiled ambitious and revolutionary plans for renewable energy and efficiency improvements, Portsmouth residents live in some of the worst insulated properties in the UK. A recent report suggested that only around one in six homes in the city had full insulation – the average cost saving that can be achieved by fixing this runs into hundreds of pounds per year. Worryingly, a local survey suggested that around three quarters of residents were deterred from taking action over perceived costs – even though local councils have a range of cheap or free initiatives to help households improve their energy efficiency.

5. Falkirk

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish city of Falkirk features highly in reports about inefficiency, mainly because of the proximity of the huge former BP oil refinery and petrochemical plants in nearby Grangemouth. To its credit, the city council has undertaken a wide range of green initiatives to improve housing and educate residents about energy usage.

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