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Low carbon heating – public views gauged in new survey

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The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has investigated public views across Great Britain on the transition to low carbon heating in its’ latest domestic heat survey.

The latest study titled “Mapping the Landscape of Public Attitudes Towards Low-Carbon Heating Technologies” examined the extent of public support and awareness of low carbon heating technologies focused specifically on district heating, heat pumps and hydrogen boilers.

It revealed that knowing as little as one friend or colleague using a low carbon heating system significantly increases a person’s willingness to adopt it themselves.

The survey found that detailed knowledge of the technologies available, their impact on heating our homes & their impact on carbon emissions is currently low, with respondents viewing other carbon reduction behaviours such as personal transport choices and reducing domestic energy consumption as more important than opting for low carbon heating solutions.

Overall, the study identified a number of key drivers of people’s attitudes towards adopting low carbon heating technologies. In particular, being concerned about UK energy security, and strongly held pro-environmental values emerged as the most influential drivers.

Professor Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff University who led the study for UKERC, stated that:

“While some of these drivers reflect well-understood public views on the low-carbon transition, we also found some surprising results, which we believe government policy and communications should urgently address. For example, knowing just one other individual who uses a low-carbon heating technology is associated with increased willingness to adopt all low-carbon heating technologies, suggesting that increasing uptake might facilitate a ‘snowball’ effect multiplying public engagement and support.”

The survey also highlighted the belief that the heat transition should be a collaborative effort, with respondents identifying government and energy companies as holding the greater responsibility to fund the transition.

Additionally, while consumers want to be involved in decision-making around future heating technologies, they seem to be unsure who to trust for information. Respondents viewed themselves, members of their social network and scientists as the most trustworthy sources, in contrast to the government and energy companies which were the least trusted. As such, the report concludes that the government and energy companies need to urgently create the conditions necessary for meaningful engagement with the public and leverage support from those trusted groups to help drive the heating transition.

UKERC Director Professor Rob Gross, said:

“The next step for the energy transition is decarbonisation of heating. Central to this is understanding public perceptions of heating system change, how people get their information and who they trust. That’s why this is such an important piece of research.”

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