Houses of Parliament Energy Usage Points To Hypocrisy

parliament at night

Energy prices have long since been a thorn in the side of householders but in recent months and years the burden they have placed on budgets has increased and fuel poverty is becoming a reality for thousands of people up and down the country.

In October, David Cameron and energy secretary Chris Huhne pledged that they would strive to tackle high energy prices by talking to the big 6 energy companies while also telling customers to forget about loyalty and switch tariffs to save money.

Even so, people have to be very careful when it comes to their energy usage, with many turning on the heat sparingly compared to previous years while also looking for other ways to stay warm without spending a fortune.

So with government budgets also being stretched, you would think that the MPs and Lords in the Houses of Parliament would be getting their act together too in order to conserve energy and spend less.

I wanted to know for sure though and sent a freedom of information request to Parliament asking how much gas and electricity is being used and what it is costing us, the taxpayer.

The results were very interesting…

The Figures Don’t Lie

When I got the information from Parliament I compiled it into a spreadsheet and made a graph out of it to understand the underlying trends.

Here is that graph (please click to enlarge), I’ll explain a little more underneath.

parliament energy usage

There are peaks and troughs in gas usage (blue line – of which the majority is presumably heating) as one would expect as the seasons change while electricity usage (red line) remains fairly stable throughout the year apart from slight dips in the summer months when the MPs leave Westminster for up to 8 weeks at a time.

When I added 12-month moving averages (gas = green, electricity = orange) to the graph however (to even out seasonal fluctuations), it seems that while many of us are feeling the pinch and cutting back on our use of gas and electricity, the House of Commons and the House of Lords are using roughly the same amount as they were 5 years ago.

I am quite amazed by this given all the money that is being sucked out of department and local government budgets by chancellor George Osborne.

Should We Rise Up In Arms?

Ok so the MPs aren’t reducing their energy usage as much as the rest of us probably are but should we march on Westminster to voice our outrage?

While I do think it is important for governments to lead by example, the costs involved aren’t quite high enough for it to be more than a mere speck on the end of year accounts for UK PLC.

Financial Year Total Cost (Gas & Electricity)
2006/07 £ 3,307,000
2007/08 £ 2,737,000
2008/09 £ 3,742,000
2009/10 £ 3,985,000
2010/11 £ 4,106,000

What’s more important is whether or not they are on the right tariffs so I thought I’d ask that too. It turns out that they procure energy via what is known as the Government Procurement Service. I was given this as way of explanation:

“The Government Procurement Service purchases energy via competitive tender advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union. Prices are site specific but the Houses do not benchmark these independently”

I think this basically means that they do not buy gas and electricity as a normal household would but instead get suppliers to bid for the contract. I would hope this leads to the best possible price per KWh.

To see how the price per KWh has changed over the years I assumed that their financial years run from April through to March and then worked out an average based on the total cost for that year. The results are below:

Financial Year Total Cost Total Usage (KWh) Average Cost Per KWh (pence)
2006/07 £ 3,307,000 57237069 5.78
2007/08 £ 2,737,000 60109924 4.55
2008/09 £ 3,742,000 63094887 5.93
2009/10 £ 3,985,000 59102737 6.74
2010/11 £ 4,106,000 59876824 6.86

I can’t comment on how competitive these unit costs per KWh are compared to other large scale industrial buyers but they seem to me to be fairly low compared to household rates. As for % increase over time, they are 51% up on the 2007/08 low which seems high to me but again I can only go on what has happened to my own bills.

Choose Your Fights Wisely

My main question to come out of this is how much of a reduction in usage is realistic given the nature of the work carried out in Parliament and the building itself given the limits that are probably in place on its modification?

I also wonder what measures, if any, have been put in place thus far. Whatever they have done over the last 5 years doesn’t appear to have worked.

Wouldn’t it be worth employing 2 or 3 people to put in place some of the energy saving advice that Government themselves give out to households – that would at least get a few more people into work and I’ve no doubt that they would pay for themselves in energy bill savings.

Do you see a scandal here that I have missed? Think MPs should be forced to wear winter coats during Prime Minister’s Questions?

Let me know your thoughts below.

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.


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