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June, 2022
Homeowners not yet convinced by heat pumps or community energy

"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."

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, according to new research by law firm Shakespeare Martineau.

The research also found that there is also a lack of education around 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.

The research shows that the top three reasons holding homeowners 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, Shakespeare Martineau 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.

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.

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.

Energy partner at Shakespeare Martineau, Sushma Maharaj, said: “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.

“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.

“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.

“We found that 35% of homeowners would be incentivised to retrofit their home with carbon reducing technology if it added value to their property and being able to sell excess energy back to the grid was an incentive to retrofit carbon reducing technologies for nearly a third of homeowners (32%).”