Decarbonising Homes

To meet the UK’s climate goals by 2050, nearly all existing homes will need upgrading to improve energy efficiency and switch to low-carbon heating. How do people in the UK feel about these changes? And what might get consumers on the journey to lower-carbon homes?

Domestic energy use accounts for more than 21 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions each year. Whilst over the past decade UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen substantially, this has happened mainly without consumers noticing. However, the next steps towards net zero will mean much bigger changes for consumers.

To reach net zero by 2050, we will need to both reduce demand for heat, by making our homes more energy efficient, and decarbonise it, by switching to renewable heating systems, such as electric heat pumps and solar thermal panels.

At Nesta, tackling this challenge is the main focus of our mission to create a sustainable future. Our aim is to help rapidly reduce household emissions by 2030. In doing this, one of the avenues we are exploring is how to find, engage and support more consumers to make these changes more quickly. This report is the first step in doing so.

This report examines consumer attitudes about energy efficiency and green heating, exploring barriers to adoption as well as possible incentives that could be tested and implemented to achieve a zero carbon Britain. To develop this report, Nesta commissioned Savanta ComRes to conduct an online survey with a representative sample of 5,022 UK adults in February 2021.

Key findings

  • There is a huge value-action gap. Whilst 85 per cent of consumers agree that climate change is one of the most important issues that needs addressing, behaviours that are absolutely necessary to reducing carbon emissions are not being adopted fast enough nor at scale to meet the UK’s climate goals.
  • Consumers have positive perceptions about gas, and might need more persuasion about the benefits of electricity for heating and cooking. Over half of consumers associate gas with being easy to use (56 per cent), convenient (54 per cent) and reliable (50 per cent).
  • Consumers need more than financial incentives to make the switch. While cost is the biggest concern for 52 per cent of consumers, many don’t know where to start looking into energy efficiency measures.
  • The vast majority (83 per cent) of consumers say they are open to adopting energy efficiency measures: Our research shows that consumers at different stages of the ‘adoption journey’ have different interests and face slightly different barriers to action – for example, those who are planning to make changes soon tend to be younger homeowners, while those who say they are not planning to make any changes are more likely to be retired, unemployed and renting their homes.

Our research shows that the majority of consumers would be willing to consider upgrading their homes, and few would rule it out. We need to harness that willingness by designing interventions and communication strategies that reflect consumers’ different motivations, interests and capability to act.

Authors

Olivia Chapman

Olivia Chapman

Olivia Chapman

Senior Programme Manager, Future of Work

Olivia Chapman is a Senior Programme Manager at Nesta.

View profile
Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Principal Researcher, Future of Work

Dr Chrystalla Kapetaniou is a Principal Researcher.

View profile
Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Mission Director, a sustainable future mission

Madeleine leads Nesta’s mission to create a sustainable future, which focuses on decarbonisation and economic recovery.

View profile