New polling reveals the barriers people face to improve energy efficiency and bring down bills

2 Feb 2024
6 min read
Saving energy piggy bank

Energy UK and One Home have today published polling conducted with Public First to understand what energy efficiency improvements, if any, people made to their homes following recent increases in energy costs.  

Although energy prices have now dropped slightly from the record highs of 2022, last year households still saw bills remain at more than double their pre-crisis level. Reducing the amount of wasted energy through improved energy efficiency is one of the ways houses can permanently reduce energy bills, while also reducing our dependence on imported gas. 

Despite this, the polling results show that more than two-thirds of people did nothing to improve the energy efficiency of their homes in 2023, due to upfront costs. Even during a period of high energy costs, it is clear that energy efficiency is not seen as a financially viable solution for the majority of individuals. 

The results also showed that private and council tenants were less likely to have made energy efficiency improvements in 2023 than homeowners, with the majority stating they could not make significant changes to their rented homes. With one in four private renters living in fuel poverty, developing minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rental sector is essential.  

The polling comes as part of an industry-wide Energy Efficiency Week highlighting the importance of improving energy efficiency measures across the UK as a long-term solution to bring energy bills down, and support energy security and Net Zero. 

The poll also revealed particular areas of focus for enhancing energy efficiency across the UK, including improving access to financing and information and increasing support for particular types of households, especially tenants.  

Financing energy efficiency improvements was a key reason given as to why people didn’t upgrade their homes’ energy efficiency with over 35% of people stating they couldn’t afford the upfront cost. Meanwhile, one in 10 people stated that energy efficiency improvements were not worth the upfront investment. This is even though energy efficiency can save hundreds on energy bills per year and even pay for itself in just a few years. 

Energy UK’s Deputy Director, Charles Wood said: 

“It is concerning to see so few people improving energy efficiency, especially during a period of high energy costs. The cheapest energy is that which we don’t use, but many households still waste money and energy when heating their homes. The UK has some of the draughtiest housing stock in Western Europe, and this is having both financial and health implications for many people – and is especially unfair to those who rent and are therefore unable to make changes to their homes.  

“Government campaigns and support schemes are welcome, and energy suppliers have delivered measures for many consumers under these existing schemes, but we need to go much further and faster. There are many ways that Government and industry can work together to ensure people can access accurate advice and information regarding the finance options available to them. Likewise, it is important that it is as easy as possible for individuals to implement the right choices for them – because the sooner action is taken, the more people can save.  

“With an upcoming general election, the current and next Governments must act on energy efficiency. This is not only vital to maintaining energy security and the UK’s momentum in cutting carbon emissions, but crucial to improving the health and wellbeing of people across the country.” 

One Home’s Chief Executive, Angela Terry, said: 

“What people are telling us from this survey is that they are not investing to make their homes warmer and cosier because they don’t believe energy efficiency is worthwhile financially. However, the opposite is true. Simple measures, such as draft proofing and hot water cylinder jackets, can pay back in less than a year. Meanwhile loft insulation in a typical home pays back in three years. Even if you plan to sell your house, insulation will improve the EPC and therefore the value of your home, so energy efficiency measures are always worthwhile to cut costs and carbon.” 

Energy UK is calling for Parties to commit to: 

  • Expanding eligibility and the number of potential measures delivered under the Great British Insulation Scheme and Energy Company Obligation, and working to ensure long-term certainty in the future of subsidy and obligations to enable sustainable growth in the market and supply chain for energy efficiency.  
  • Delivering measures to improve the energy efficiency of the private rented sector, including introducing a gradually increasing requirement for a minimum EPC rating for rental properties, and improving information and support for landlords and tenants. 
  • Reviewing taxation and wider fiscal measures to incentivise energy efficiency improvements, including expanding temporary VAT exemptions for energy efficient materials and technologies, reviewing the wider approach to taxation surrounding energy efficiency, and introducing Stamp Duty relief for homes where energy efficiency has been improved.  
  • Assessing the supply chain and skills requirements surrounding energy efficiency and low carbon heat, re-assign existing skills funding to increase the number of trained installers in the UK and working with industry to deliver sustainable growth in both supply and demand.  
  • Working in collaboration with the energy industry to enhance engagement and information provision for consumers about available energy efficiency measures and applicable funding schemes. 
  • Working in collaboration with the energy and financial sectors to develop more and better options for green finance to reduce the barrier presented by upfront costs of energy efficiency. 
  • Increasing the level of funding assigned to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, enabling more households to take on measures under the scheme following the recent uplift of the grant level for each measure. 

Notes to editors 

  1. Energy UK is the trade association for the energy industry with over 100 members – from established FTSE 100 companies right through to new, growing suppliers, generators and service providers across energy, transport, heat and technology. Our members deliver nearly 80% of the UK’s power generation and over 95% of the energy supply for 28 million UK homes as well as businesses. The sector invests £13bn annually and delivers nearly £30bn in gross value – on top of the nearly £100bn in economic activity through its supply chain and interaction with other sectors. The energy industry is key to delivering growth and plans to invest £100bn over the course of this decade in new energy sources. The energy sector supports 700,000 jobs in every corner of the country. Energy UK plays a key role in ensuring we attract and retain a diverse workforce. In addition to our Young Energy Professionals Forum, which has over 2,000 members representing over 350 organisations, we are a founding member of TIDE, an industry-wide taskforce to tackle Inclusion and Diversity across energy. 
  2. One Home is a not-for-profit climate action campaign organisation that helps UK households to adapt to a low cost, low carbon lifestyle and extreme weather. One Home provides information and advice on positive, practical solutions that improve people’s lives while saving money and reducing carbon emissions. Find out more on the One Home website. 
  3. Public First poll of 2,016 UK adults, conducted online 25th January – 29th January 2024. Full results are available on the Public First website. 
  4. Read Energy UK’s polling report on its website.

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