New research uses people-powered panel to show government how to save energy in UK homes

Members of the citizens' panel mid discussion around a table © Lancaster University
Members of the citizens' panel

Researchers from 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 bring down emissions and save money on energy bills.

Researchers brought together a group of home owners with advisers from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to design people-friendly policies to help homeowners lower their energy consumption, and help the UK meet its legal target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Gas and electricity use in people’s homes currently accounts for about 15% of the UK’s total emissions. As the UK government works towards net zero, reducing dependence on gas and insulating homes to make them more efficient will become increasingly urgent – and will help households financially as they face spiralling energy bills.

To address a significant gap in government policy for reducing emissions in owner-occupied homes, Lancaster University researchers brought together a panel of 24 home owners – demographically representative of UK homeowners in terms of age, ethnicity, income and attitudes to climate change - with policy experts and researchers. Over several sessions, panellists built their knowledge about how home energy use impacts climate change, and what could be done to reduce emissions and bills. The panel, alongside Climate Change Committee advisers, then co-designed policies, solutions and incentives they thought would work best for homeowners.

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

“The encouraging thing is our research shows that homeowners want to do the right thing and are open to making changes - if they are offered the right levels of support.

“The group of homeowners we worked with have done some amazing work and have designed a package of measures that is both realistic and deliverable. The Climate Change Committee will now be able to use this to help inform its advice to government.”

The citizen panel designed a package of support that covers the full ‘homeowner lifecycle’ – from buying, renovating and living in homes. As well as calls for new legislation to steer away from gas boilers and national awareness campaigns, the citizen-designed incentives include:

  • Stamp duty being determined by how energy efficient the home is
  • A logbook for every home outlining previous energy improvements made and what else is needed in future
  • Low or no interest loans for energy-efficient improvements
  • ‘Energy improvement score’ incentives (like credit ratings) aligned to reduced mortgage rates

By working with the citizen panel, the research team also discovered:

  • Concern about climate change is high, but awareness of the changes homeowners need to make is low
  • Bespoke, trusted information is vital. People should understand what they need to do to their homes, and what the costs and benefits will be. Generic advice won’t work.
  • Some financial support will be required even for households not in fuel poverty. Low interest loans and grants for example, targeting poorly performing homes.
  • The stop- start approach to home energy decarbonisation has reduced trust
  • Some people have concerns and questions about heat pumps – especially those in flats or small homes
  • Support and incentives are needed at important intervention points and a range of schemes should be available
  • Incentives alone will not bring about change. Regulation is 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:

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