The last instance of the greener homes attitude tracker showed an increased urgency on the part of UK households to improve energy efficiency, and therefore the environmental sustainability, of their properties. More than half of respondents said rising prices made them more likely to implement energy efficiency measures – measures that could reduce their spending on energy bills.
- The pace of planned improvements has also increased – the number of people anticipating improvements over the next 12 months has increased from 16% in the last quarter of 2021 to 22% in the first quarter of 2022.
- This was accompanied by a drop in the number of those planning to upgrade in the next 1-5 years (from 33% to 31%) and in the next 6-10 years (from 19 % to 16%), indicating that consumers are looking to bring work forward.
- Looking at plans for the next decade as a whole, almost two-thirds (63%) of owners said they intended to make improvements, up from around half (54%) last spring.
The quarterly index is based on responses from 4,500 people across the UK in the first quarter of 2022, and the data has been collected against the backdrop of escalating cost of living pressures facing UK homeowners , especially with regard to energy costs.
Lloyd Cochrane, Head of Mortgages at NatWest, said: “One of the best ways to save money on bills is to reduce the amount of energy we have to use – so helping people understand how to make their homes more energy efficient can be a really effective way cut their bills, something that’s particularly important in a time of rising prices.It could also help reduce their impact on the climate, as homes account for 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions.
The Tracking Greener Homes Attitudes shows that this message is resonating with the public, and that will only grow in the coming months as pressures on the cost of living increase. It is important that we continue to work with industry and government to help people understand how they can make these changes, which can be costly and complex to understand.
James Close, head of climate change at NatWest, said: “At NatWest, we have placed climate change at the heart of our strategy to be a purpose-driven bank. It is therefore important that we support 19 million customers in the transition to net zero. We can help them understand and reduce their impact on the climate and meet the rising costs of energy bills. The Greener Homes Attitude Tracker is an important part of how we understand the changing needs of tenants and landlords, highlighting perceived barriers to – and the value of – green home improvements. This allows us to better tailor our support to customers and inform the public conversation on this topic. »
Obstacles to further work?
However, significant challenges remain to increasing the energy efficiency of the UK building stock, with upfront costs frequently cited as a barrier.
In the context of rising prices, cost remained the main obstacle to improvement. Additionally, the proportion of households reporting cost as a barrier fell from 70% in Q4 2021 to 72%. However, people’s willingness to pay varied depending on the type of improvement proposed.
Buy now, pay when?
One of the most popular planned upgrades for UK owners is an electric car charging point, with half of owners (48%) saying they already have one or will install one within the next 10 years – this proportion rose from 44% in the last quarter alone. A third (33%) of those considering installing an electric car charging station said they would prefer to pay in advance – around twice as likely as they were compared to others energy efficiency improvements such as air source heat pumps (only 14% prefer to pay up front), double glazed windows (12%) and solar panels (19%).
Beware of the Green Gap – a relief for tenants?
The survey found a welcome increase in the number of renters who said their household or landlord had made improvements to the environmental sustainability of the property since living there (33% vs. 29% in Q4 2021). However, the figures showed the persistence of a “green gap” between rented accommodation and owned accommodation, with owners still more likely to have energy efficiency measures such as double-glazed windows (82% compared to 74% of tenants) or energy-efficient lighting (69% compared to 52% of tenants), leaving tenants potentially more exposed to higher expenses for heating their dwelling.
With balancing the upfront costs of improvements and longer-term savings being a real issue for homeowners, being rewarded for making energy efficiency improvements was seen by households as the best way to help them improve the environmental sustainability of their primary property within the next 10 years, according to 57% of respondents. It was followed by a comparison site (48%).
In the recent spring statement, the Chancellor cut the tax on items such as solar panels, insulation and heat pumps from five per cent to zero. With energy prices expected to remain high for the foreseeable future, energy tax cuts have enjoyed popular support as a form of government policy intervention, with almost half (49%) of homeowners having said they would like the government to introduce a temporary reduction in VAT. for gas and electricity. Accelerating investment in renewable energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels (cited by 39%) was another popular policy.
NatWest has been vocal in calling for accelerated action on energy efficiency this decade as the most effective way to address all aspects of the UK’s energy trilemma – affordability, energy security and decarbonisation. The bank is aware of the challenges and concerns that the cost of living crisis is causing to many of our customers across the country and is focused on providing practical help and support to our customers.
This quarter, through the Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition, we have proposed a set of interventions that the government should take to redouble its efforts to inform the public through an information campaign, and use all the levers at its provision for encouraging and rewarding energy efficiency action. .