New research uses a panel powered by people to show the government how to save energy in UK homes

Researchers at Lancaster University are today launching the results of a new citizens’ panel project which aims to inform government of the policies, support and incentives homeowners need to reduce emissions and save fuel. money on energy bills.

Researchers brought together a group of homeowners with advisers from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to design user-friendly policies to help homeowners reduce their energy consumption and help the UK reach its legal zero emissions target net by 2050.

Household gas and electricity use currently accounts for around 15% of total UK emissions. As the UK government strives to reach net zero, reducing reliance on gas and insulating homes to make them more efficient will become ever more urgent – and help households financially as they face bills spiral energy.

To fill a significant gap in government policy to reduce emissions in owner-occupied homes, researchers at Lancaster University brought together a panel of 24 homeowners – demographically representative of UK homeowners in terms of age, ethnicity, income and attitudes to climate change – with policy experts and researchers. Over several sessions, panelists deepened their understanding of the impact of household energy use on climate change and what could be done to reduce emissions and bills. The panel, alongside advisers from the Climate Change Committee, then co-designed policies, solutions and incentives that they felt would work best for homeowners.

Dr Jacob Ainscough, lead author of the report, said: “The climate crisis and the energy crisis both underscore the urgent need for more action to insulate our homes and move away from gas boilers.

“What’s encouraging is that our research shows that owners want to do the right thing and are open to making changes – if given the right levels of support.

“The ownership group we worked with did an amazing job and came up with a set of measures that were both realistic and deliverable. The Climate Change Committee will now be able to use it to inform its advice to the government.

The citizens’ panel has designed a package of assistance measures covering the entire ‘ownership lifecycle’ – from buying, renovating and living in homes. Along with calls for new legislation to move away from gas boilers and national awareness campaigns, citizen-designed incentives include:

  • The stamp duty being determined by the energy efficiency of the house
  • A logbook for each home outlining previous energy upgrades and what is needed in the future
  • Low-interest or no-interest loans for energy efficiency improvements
  • “Energy improvement score” incentives (like credit scores) aligned with reduced mortgage rates

Working with the citizen panel, the research team also found:

  • Concerns about climate change are high, but awareness of the changes homeowners need to make is low
  • Tailored and reliable information is vital. People need to understand what they need to do in their home and what the costs and benefits will be. Generic advice will not work.
  • Some financial support will be needed even for households that are not fuel poor. Low-interest loans and grants, for example, targeting poorly performing houses.
  • The stop-start approach to decarbonizing home energy has reduced confidence
  • Some people have concerns and questions about heat pumps – especially those in apartments or small houses
  • Support and incentives are needed at important intervention points and a range of programs should be available
  • Incentives alone will not bring about change. Regulations are also needed to move away from gas boilers.
  • There is limited understanding of alternative energy tariffs and business models

The full report is published today and is available here: https://climatecitizens.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Lancaster-University.-2022.-Addressing-emission-from-owner-occupied -homes .pdf

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