Governments in many parts of the world are becoming increasingly aware of the effect of increased power prices on lower income households, which spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy. Several initiatives to encourage the use of energy efficient products and improvements have been introduced in the UK. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, for example, items such as loft insulation, low energy light bulbs, radiator foils and cavity wall insulation are being given away free by the government as part of a drive to promote energy efficiency.

And in the US the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has assured households facing higher power bills this winter that energy-saving help is at hand. US electricity utilities have a long history of encouraging energy efficiency, and the assistance they offer customers includes on-line energy audits to identify areas where energy may be being wasted. In a national survey the EEI identified over 800 programmes available to consumers (visit www.eei.org/retail/low-income) and the Institute also offers tips on energy saving in the home (www.eei.org/wiseuse).