Heat pumps and EVs still too expensive for the majority of Brits, survey finds

Pictured: A home fitted with an air-source heat pump. Image: OVO Energy

And the proportion stands at just one in five for average earners considering an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car or van.

These are the findings of a survey of 4,000 UK-based adults conducted by PwC.

The survey was conducted in August, before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak increased the level of grant funding each home can claim under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme from £5,000 to £7,500.

He made this change in tandem with weakening time-bound targets to get homes with oil-fired and gas-fired boilers to switch to heat pumps or other lower-carbon alternatives. Sunak also rolled back home energy efficiency standards, stating that the previous design would force homeowners and landlords to make “expensive” changes in the near-term.

The changes have been widely criticised by green groups. Additionally, trade bodies like the Confederation of British Industry and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have warned that they will undermine business and investor certainty, jeaopordising investment in clean technologies.

But most orgainsations in the green economy do acknowledge that more needs to be done to support those on average and below-average incomes to reduce the carbon emitted by their homes and their transportation.

PwC’s survey found that most Brits still perceive heat pumps and EVs as out of their budget. Only 12% of those polled believe they are likely to switch to a heat pump in the near term while 20% are on the verge of switching to an EV.

For both technologies, the proportion of those willing to switch was around twice as high in the top earner base than among average earners.

PwC tax leader Laura Hinton said: “Over the past twelve months, many in the UK are seeing cost of living pressures impacting on their monthly outgoings. This added pressure to finances means many will see the high cost of entry to green technology, such as buying an EV or upgrading home energy efficiency, as a step too far for them currently, despite the potential long-term cost savings.”

Carrots or sticks?

The survey revealed far greater levels of support for Government funding to make lower-emission options more affordable than interventions that would essentially price most people out of using existing high-carbon options.

A significant minority (43%) of those polled said they would strongly support the use of taxpayer funds to create a UK version of the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act, which is providing billions of dollars of subsidies and tax credits to industries such as renewable energy, EVs and hydrogen.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has promised a British response to this package, and similar deals on offer in markets such as the EU and Japan, at the Autumn Statement this November. He had been pressed to make the announcement at the Budget in Spring but ultimately opted for a delay.

PwC’s survey also found strong support for discounted energy bills for those willing to have new renewable energy projects built near them. 71% of rural voters would support new onshore wind within three miles of their home provided they would be provided with an energy bill incentive.

The UK Government recently eased some planning restrictions for onshore wind and intervened to make it harder for one single opponent to hold up a major project. This was after Sunak stated an intention to allow onshore wind farms only in areas showing strong local support. However, the general consensus is that the interventions do not go far enough to significantly spur onshore wind development after years of an effective ban implemented under David Cameron.

Some energy companies are already exploring the local discount approach. Octopus Energy, for example, runs a local tariff called ‘Fan Club’ for those living near onshore wind turbines. It this week announced plans to extend the discount to those living near offshore wind farms.

PwC’s Hinton added: “The public has a clear preference for carrots over sticks as a means to spark this transition. However, while there is notable support for the use of taxpayer funds to do this, it is not universal, and the Government may have to find other levers in addition to encouraging behavioural change.

“It’s a reminder that while tax and incentives have an important role to play in solving societal problems, ensuring public support for measures is far from straightforward.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie