Thursday, April 11, 2024

Brits want to fight climate change, but a third of consumers unaware of how to make homes greener

New research from Mitsubishi Electric and Ipsos reveals consumers want to support the environment, and there is growing consumer appetite for heat pump technology.

It also finds a fundamental lack of understanding around energy efficiency, and underlines the need for the government to prioritise Net Zero awareness.

British consumers are taking responsibility for reducing the impact of climate change – with 76% believing they have a responsibility to cut carbon impact and help get to Net Zero. But over a third (34%) of British adults still aren’t aware of the most environmentally friendly way to heat their homes, despite the government’s ambitious goal of reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 – according to new research from Mitsubishi Electric and Ipsos.

UK consumers want to support the environment, but need more understanding of renewable technology 

Home heating is still responsible for around 17% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and around 80% of domestic heating comes from gas. To combat this, the UK government is driving a move to lower carbon alternatives, including heat pumps, through programmes like the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Heat pumps are three times more efficient than boilers to generate the same amount of heat. In a survey of 1,000 UK adults in June 2023, nearly half (42%) of Brits said they do have some interest in installing heat pump technology. However, understanding of heat pump technology is still low. Only 13% of respondents are currently aware of the environmental benefits that heat pumps offer, and 71% know little to nothing about how heat pump technology works. More broadly, over a third (34%) don’t know the most environmentally friendly ways to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. 

Despite government efforts, UK heat pump uptake is currently far below the target of 600,000 annual installations by 2028 set by the UK government – just 60,000 were installed in 2022. To make the Net Zero target a reality, increasing consumer awareness and understanding will be vital.

Cost-of-living is the biggest influence on heat pump adoption

The cost-of-living crisis is a compelling factor influencing heat pump uptake. In fact, 64% of respondents said the main reason they were interested in, or had already installed, a heat pump was to save money on their energy bills over time.

At the same time, the factor deterring almost half (49%) of respondents from installing a heat pump is perceived high initial costs to purchase and install a system, followed by perceived high running costs (29%).

Russell Dean, Mitsubishi Electric’s Residential Products Group Director, said: “Heat pumps are a vital technology on the road to Net Zero, but their full potential is currently not being realised in the UK. To make Net Zero a reality, the government must do more to raise awareness among households on how they can lower their energy usage with heat pumps, and dispel any fears around cost and performance of the technology.”

A call for government support

Respondents believe that the government has a big role to play in driving the move to Net Zero, in addition to individual efforts. The vast majority (80%) agree that the government has a responsibility to act to reduce carbon emissions, and 41% say the government should set a deadline for decarbonisation of the economy.

However, existing support put in place by the UK government has had limited success to date. For example, less than half of the budget of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme was used in its first year, partly due to a lack of clear communication to consumers.

The government is in a strong position to build greater consumer awareness around heat pumps and the move to Net Zero, but there is more work to be done. The government is the source of information that most consumers (32%) would engage with for advice on heat pumps, followed by heat pump manufacturers themselves (24%), local authorities (23%) and installers (23%).

But despite trusting the government for heat pump advice, less than half (41%) of Britons currently regard the government as being trustworthy when it comes to leading the broader fight against climate change.

To support the drive to Net Zero and heat pump uptake targets, the government must play a greater role in educating and supporting the public. Jessica Long, Head of Ipsos ESG Consulting, says: “2026 is widely considered a critical date to achieve Net Zero targets and heat pumps are undoubtedly one of the resources we will need to utilise in order to reach this target. However, our research shows, that heat pump uptake is reliant on government intervention, both in the form of educating the public about the benefits of heat pumps, and providing cost-effective opportunities to install these systems.  For the majority of people, their environmental choices are driven by co-benefits and in the current economic climate cost efficiencies will be a big part of any energy choices people make.”

About the research

Ipsos and Mitsubishi Electric partnered to conduct a study to understand more about consumer attitudes towards, and engagement with electric heat pump technology as an element of the roadmap to decarbonise residential heating in Britain. Ipsos ran an online survey with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people aged 18-75 across Great Britain.

Online survey ran between 19 and 21 May 2023. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

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