Consumers not yet convinced by heat pumps or community energy
Less than 1 in 5 (18%) consumers consider a heat pump an affordable option for them
Nearly 2 in 5 (37%) consumers would replace a broken gas boiler with a like for like; just 12% would opt for an air or ground source heat pump
Top three reasons holding homeowners1 back from retrofitting their homes are: cost (57%), lack of knowledge (28%) and disruption (21%)
Just 24% of consumers feel they have a good understanding of what community energy is
60% unaware of the Heat and Building Strategy £5,000 heat pump installation grant
New research report from Shakespeare Martineau outlines barriers and recommendations for increased low carbon technology adoption
New research commissioned by law firm Shakespeare Martineau, as part of the firm’s latest white paper Community energy ‘in a box’, shows that almost two-thirds of the population do not feel they confidently understand what a heat pump is, how it works and how they go about getting one. Nor do they understand community energy, with less than a quarter of people (24%) stating they had a good understanding of what it was.
Nearly 2 in 5 (37%) consumers said that if their boiler needed replacing in the next six months they would replace it with a new gas boiler.
Despite the government pushing for heat pumps and electrification, just 12% of consumers would replace their current heating system with a heat pump (6% opted for air source and 6% said ground source heat pump) and more than a third (36%) responded with ‘don’t know’. And 60% were unaware of the government’s Heat and Building Strategy £5,000 heat pump installation grant.
“There are a number of barriers standing in the way of increased adoption of community energy projects, which will make a huge difference to the UK meeting its net zero targets,” said energy partner at Shakespeare Martineau, Sushma Maharaj.
“Consumer buy-in is crucial in order to drive innovation and we also need major landowners like housing associations and planning authorities to make demands on new developments, as well as make it much easier for housebuilders to utilise existing infrastructure in the adoption of community energy.”
The research shows that the top three reasons holding homeowners1 back from retrofitting their homes are: cost (57%), lack of knowledge (28%) and disruption (21%).
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the cost of an air-to-water heat pump is around £7,000 to £13,000 depending on the size of heat pump, property size, whether it’s a new build or an existing property, and whether you need to change the way heat is distributed around a property.
Providing the above information, we then asked consumers if they thought heat pumps were an affordable option for them; just 18% said yes, while nearly two thirds (62%) said no, and 20% were unsure.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the median household income in the UK was £29,900 in the financial year ending 2020. Respondents closest to this national average household (those with a household income between £25,001 and £35,000) had one of the highest counts of undecided individuals; almost two thirds (65%) were neither likely nor unlikely and just 17% said it was an affordable option.
Sushma added: “With the ‘average’ household having little understanding of community energy and only a minority of this group considering low carbon technology (heat pumps) as an affordable option, more must be done to educate and financially support this group.
“The Chancellor’s announcement to scrap VAT on energy saving technology is a step in the right direction, but will still leave the public – particularly the average ‘able to pay’ household – well out of pocket.
When consumers are already combatting the rising cost of living, if they are required to fork out large sums for new technology there needs to be further incentives, such as additional grants, interest-free loans, reduced council tax or greater influence of EPC rating on the value of their home.
The research showed that 60% of all people were not aware of the Heat and Building Strategy £5,000 heat pump installation grant. Of those people not aware, more than a third (34%) said that the grant money would make them more likely to purchase a heat pump, indicating an urgent need for improved education.
The white paper ‘Community energy in a box – how do we get there?’ from law firm Shakespeare Martineau explores public attitudes towards community energy, low carbon technology and retrofitting, as well as brings together experts across energy, academia, law and housing to provide solutions and recommendations for greater adoption of community energy projects by industries that will play a significant role in meeting the government’s net zero targets in 2050.
When given a description of community energy some consumers changed their mind; 35% of people said they would be likely to consider a community energy project. However, 41% remained indifferent: stating they were neither likely nor unlikely.
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Sushma is a renewable energy specialist having advised on numerous renewable energy projects and on heat networks. She works with clients as they pioneer clean energy projects and navigate the ever-changing legal and regulatory landscape.
1| Research filtered by homeowners only, provided 1596 respondents
2| 64% - combined percentage answering ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’