Ministers are drawing up plans for a public information campaign to encourage people to reduce energy use this winter amid fears that a price freeze will deter them from doing so.
There is concern within government that the intervention set to be announced by Liz Truss to tackle the sharp rise in energy costs could increase the risk of blackouts if it means that households and businesses do not reduce consumption.
The Times are reporting that ministers are wanting to work with energy companies on a public information campaign over the winter to encourage people to turn down their thermostats and turn off electrical appliances instead of leaving them on standby.
The move would represent a significant shift in government policy. Under Boris Johnson, Downing Street repeatedly refused to give advice on energy use, saying that it was a matter for individuals.
Ministers are concerned, though, that an energy price freeze will remove the incentive for people to keep their bills down. Russia has cut off supplies to Europe from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, creating the prospect of energy rationing over the winter.
Other countries in Europe have already introduced public information campaigns. Switzerland launched an initiative with 40 partners from the public and private sector, using the slogan: “Energy is scarce, let’s not waste it.” It advised people to turn down their thermostats, take showers instead of baths, turn off electrical appliances and use a lid when boiling water.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “There is a logic to people reducing energy use when there’s a shortage and prices are high. A top priority of the government ought to be encouraging people to use less energy.
“If the price doesn’t go up to reflect the market price, in the end people won’t respond. This is going to be particularly true of higher-income households which use more energy.”