Taking the temperature: consumer choice and low carbon heating
Our homes account for a quarter of the UK’s energy use and 15% of total carbon emissions. Meeting the UK’s new target of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require a near-complete decarbonisation of all our homes. This means making them as efficient as possible, including reducing the amount of heat they lose, and ensuring the remaining heat demand is met using low-carbon heating systems.
This is a challenge on an unprecedented scale. While new homes are built to a much higher thermal efficiency, we still have relatively old housing stock in the UK. This includes some homes that will be extremely difficult and expensive to retrofit with energy efficiency measures. In addition, the installation of energy efficiency measures are often not a priority for many homeowners or are out of reach for others, such as those in rented accommodation.
Overall, more than 29 million homes will need a low-carbon intervention to achieve net-zero and that intervention will be different for every home. People will need to make choices about the way their home is heated. Navigating the market for these new technologies will prove challenging for all but the most engaged, technology savvy consumers.
Yet these choices will be vitally important. Changing the way our homes are heated is vital to meet the UK’s net zero carbon emission target. Choosing low carbon heat options could be costly, confusing and difficult. These decisions will have a huge impact on the way people live in their homes.
This report considers how people might make these choices in the future and will this choice, as we understand it today, need to be the same?
We draw out 3 key lessons:
Early communication will be vital: the way people react to any policy that restricts their choice will depend on their understanding of the government’s wider priorities
Government will be expected to mitigate risks: particularly if low carbon heat options are made mandatory, consumers will expect government to minimise any risks that they might be exposed to
Consumers will want to retain control in some areas: people who have less control over the heat system in their home will need extra reassurance about cost and quality
Citizens Advice is calling for the government to establish a net zero homes guarantee. The guarantee should be a government-backed scheme to give people confidence to install measures needed to install low-carbon heating systems and energy efficiency measures. A guarantee would help people to make informed decisions, and establish simple, enforceable, protections, so people can engage with confidence. Achieving the transition to low carbon heat will only be possible if we inform, protect and support people, with the changes that we all have to make to our homes.