Renewable heat technologies are leaving consumers cold

aphcRecent findings from a poll of 1,000 homeowners across England and Wales by Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), have found that campaigns by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and efforts to encourage consumers to ‘go green’ are failing to get the message across about the benefits of renewable energy and range of options available. Only 27% of respondents could name one environmental heat technology, of which solar thermal panels were the most recognised with a response rate of 18%, wind turbines came next with four per cent and the third named is tidal power (two per cent).

The DECC‘s flagship Green Deal scheme encourages consumers to make energy-saving improvements to homes and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) offers cash back for installing two government approved measures. However the research found that only 13% of respondents indicated this would be a motivating factor. In fact 69% of people are more likely to install to make long-term savings on their energy bills. Surprisingly, environmental impact appears low on consumers’ motivation with less than ten per cent suggesting reduced impact on the environment would be a deciding factor.

When provided with a list of technologies, recognition did substantially rise with 83% of people stating they had heard of solar thermal panels, 42% heat pumps and 34% biomass boilers. Yet, 12% of respondents hadn’t heard of any of the three technologies listed, suggesting the green revolution has some way to go.

Equally, consumers appear to be unsure about the benefits of renewable energy over a traditional heating system. Nearly four in ten respondents (39%) were unable to identify any benefit to switching to a new technology. Of those who could, common reasons included lowering bills, better for the environment, less reliance on fossil fuel and the positives of being ‘off grid’.

As a voice of the plumbing and heating industry, APHC has long been campaigning for more clarity and simplicity of green schemes, which are currently confusing for consumers and installers alike. In particular, constant changes to GDHIF funding availability and applicable measures are causing a lack of consumer confidence in advice professional installers are providing and in the Green Deal scheme. In 2014, funding was released in two phases but allocated funds were claimed within days and weeks, and closed to new applications at short notice.

John Thompson, chief executive at APHC, said:

“This research clearly shows that despite efforts to encourage homeowners to look at alternative sources of heating, awareness of these technologies is low. While most people will appreciate that replacing an old boiler with a modern efficient condensing boiler will save money and use less energy, there are many other options that could provide longer-term savings plus a reduced impact on the environment, such as heat pumps or biomass boilers.”

“Incentivising people to make their homes warmer and more energy efficient is certainly to be encouraged but a longer-term plan is needed to increase participation by whatever party is in power after the general election.”

Green campaigner and government advisor, Andy Buchan, said:

“Like it or not, we need to look to renewable heating in the future as fossil fuel supplies dwindle and gas and oil gets more expensive. These figures suggest that the government is preaching to the converted, who are taking advantage of cash back schemes, rather than educat