Consumers need to be taken on the journey towards net-zero
The government will struggle to hit net-zero in rural areas unless they do more to work with industry and engage consumers, a group of leading energy experts has said at a fringe event run by Liquid Gas UK.
With a government commitment to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050, it has become even more important to look at how households can be encouraged to move towards low-carbon heating systems, a group of industry experts has said at a Liquid Gas UK Fringe Event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association kicked things off saying that people required more guidance from government on how to deliver change.
“There are pollsters who are coming up with lots of data which show that people care about climate change and want to do something about it, so obviously we need policies that will help them to do something about it.
“There is no point in just setting some targets. You’ve got to set out the steps along the way, that is good for business and is good for consumers as well because you can see what the direction of travel is and what you need to do.”
Sophia Haywood, Public Affairs Manager at Liquid Gas UK, highlighted there was still more to be done by both industry and government to persuade consumers about the importance of adopting low carbon alternatives, such as bioLPG.
Citing new figures from uSwitch, she said: “Around 31% of homeowners would be willing to pay a bit more for decarbonisation.
“They recognised it was important and they’d be happy to pay. I think it worked out about an average of about £38 extra per month. But there was at least 53% who didn’t think they should pay anything towards decarbonisation. They thought either the government should pay, or the energy industry should foot it.”
She added: “So while it is great to see that there is a section of the population that are willing to pay a little more – we still have a long way to go.”
Encouraging low carbon switches in rural areas
The panel highlighted that choice for off-grid consumers was critical and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not work for homeowners in rural areas.
Ms Haywood highlighted “the importance of consumer choice could really drive the market. Nobody likes feeling like they’ve been prescribed something. They’ve got to feel like they have a choice.”
Jeff House, Head of External Affairs at Baxi, added that it was important that any new policy must also bring along those in fuel poverty or those without the funds to pay for an expensive change in heating system.
“It’s not good having a top-down dictative type policy whereby people are having forced change and don’t necessarily buy into it.
"So, you’ve got to have consumer acceptance, consumer focus, and an equitable rollout that doesn’t leave behind those in fuel poverty and those less able to pay."
The panel also discussed the difficulty of persuading off-grid homeowners to adopt low carbon alternatives, with many owning systems which have some inherent value. For example the 1.1m properties which own an oil tank.
“The biggest challenge is setting the policy now which can start to encourage off-grid homeowners to start the switch,” Ms Haywood added.
She said a quick win could be for Government to provide incentives, such as an oil tank scrappage scheme, to encourage switches from heating oil onto low carbon alternatives, such as bioLPG.
Adding that, there has to be long term policy framework that supports a consumer-led market approach to heat decarbonisation.
For more information on Liquid Gas UK and the work the association is doing on off-grid heat decarbonisation please contact Sophia Haywood, Public Affairs Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org