How Have The Public Responded?
In the late 1970s, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) first expressed concern over human activities and our effect on the planet. (Source: Soas)
Since then, people have made everything from small changes to completely overhauling their lifestyles. However, now more than ever, we’re seeing a significant difference in people’s attitudes and practices towards living greener.
Living a more eco-friendly life has been on the rise for many years. You only have to look at the high streets. Zero-waste stores are popping up, ‘wonky fruit and veg’ is sold to reduce food waste, and more cycle lanes are lining the roads. All of these are excellent steps towards a greener future and reducing the impact of climate change.
However, more must be done when the average household produces 2.7 tonnes of CO2 each year through heating (Source: The CCC).
So, with new alternative heating options on the market, will the public be as happy to make the switch to renewable energy as they were to reusable bags?
One of the most significant issues faced by anyone wanting to replace their gas heating with an eco-friendlier option is cost.
A recent poll of 2000 adults found that 59% felt they couldn’t make changes towards being eco-friendly due to a lack of money. (Source: Independent) These changes include organic food, energy-saving light bulbs and double glazing. Considering a new heating system would be even more costly, it’s simply not on the cards for many people.
Heat pumps are a popular choice for people looking for an eco-friendly alternative to their gas boilers. And many engineers believe it’s heat pumps that will overtake gas boilers in the future.
However, heat pumps are a considerable investment, with installation varying between £8000 and £45,000. Depending on the heat pump that suits your home, it could be one of the more expensive options.
On the other hand, solar panels cost around £350 per panel. So for an average-size home requiring a 4kW system, a homeowner must spend between £6000 and £8000.
The most realistic alternative is an electric boiler, coming in at the same amount as a gas boiler to purchase. Although, with mains gas costing an average of 4p per KwH, while electric comes in at 15p per kWh, homeowners would be spending more than three times as much a month.
Popularity With The Public
Eco-alternatives have risen in popularity over the past few years despite the expense.
As gas boilers are due to be banned from new builds by 2025, many developers are jumping the gun, installing heat pumps into homes ahead of the deadline. This year saw a 21% increase in heat pump installations. (Source: HomeBuilding)
In contrast, the public didn’t initially welcome solar in the way that heat pumps have. This is likely due to the myth that the cloudy UK couldn’t produce enough electricity to make them worthwhile. However, by 2015, the UK installed solar panels quicker than any other European country.
Thanks to a surge in popularity and technological advances, solar panels are cheaper and more efficient than ever. And as a result, it’s estimated that solar power will be more affordable than gas and fossil fuels by 2030 (Source: GreenMatch).
We asked on Twitter whether the engineers themselves would have solar panels installed. It was a resounding yes, with some engineers saying they should be a requirement in all homes.
So with the public and industry professionals favouring eco-friendly alternatives to gas boilers, will we hit targets?
While the government aims for 600,00 heat pump installations each year by 2028, there are concerns over how realistic the target is.
The installation of 600,000 per year is a massive jump from the 27,000 currently installed. Statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government reveal 243,770 homes were built in 2019/20 (Source: Buy Association). A significant number, but even if all of those homes had heat pumps installed, it’s still not enough to hit the target. To do so, many homeowners would need to replace their current heating systems with heat pumps, but how reasonable a request is that?
The cost, inconvenience, plus many homes aren’t suited to heat pumps is a spanner in the works.
And even before installation, there are several other factors to consider, as pointed out by David Hilton, a director of Heat and Energy Ltd:
“There’s a huge infrastructure challenge, and huge questions to be answered. Who’s going to manufacture them? Do we have enough electricity to supply all these pumps to begin with? Can the industry support that level of rollout?”
(Source: Home Building)
People can agree on the need for government help to implement change and reach targets.
Research from Siemens Gas and Power UK & Ireland has revealed that 71% of UK consumers believe the government needs to develop clean energy faster. And along with that, 27% of adults believe the government need to invest more in renewable fuels- e.g. solar, wind and hydrogen. (Source: Smart Energy).
It will be no surprise then that a recent YouGov poll for RenewableUK found that five times as many people supported prioritising renewable energy over any other green industry. (Source: RenewableUK)
The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RpHI) promotes renewable heat through a financial incentive. Members of the scheme receive quarterly payments for seven years for their system’s clean and renewable heat. Unfortunately, while the Domestic RHI help, it only helps those able to afford a new heating system.
Earlier this year, the government scrapped their Green Homes Grant. The £1.5bn programme provided £5000 – £10000 to assist people in adding insulation or low-carbon heating to their homes. More than 123,000 people applied, but only 28,000 received vouchers.
Ed Matthew, campaigns director at the E3G think tank, called the scrapping of the grant “a disaster in terms of the UK getting on track to net-zero”. (Source: The Guardian).
The industry and the public are happy to move to green energy. Many have already made changes where possible, but financing a move to lower carbon heating isn’t an option for the majority.
To hit targets, the government needs to act now, assisting homeowners in getting lower carbon energy into their homes.