Debate about future of heating must involve the public
The Gas Users Organisation which speaks in the interests of the 24 million households who use gas for domestic heating, expresses concern that the recently published report from the UK government shows little public awareness of the debate over future policy options.
The study, published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 1st September shows strong public support for carbon-reduction policies. (Transforming heat - public attitudes research report, Ref: BEIS research paper number: 2020/024)
The government has conducted a very thorough survey of public opinion, and while it is encouraging that a majority of the population support measures being taken to address climate change, there is considerable cause for concern that so few people understand that major decisions may be taken about how they will heat their homes in future.
There is very little public awareness of the debate about how decarbonisation of heating can be achieved. Only about a third of the population are reported as knowing about government targets to decarbonise heat, whereas 18% have never heard of the UK’s emissions targets at all, and 37% don’t know about the specific zero carbon heating target for 2050.
The research also shows that while the public does support measures to improve the carbon efficiency of how they heat their homes, there is very little awareness of the different transition strategies being debated. Interestingly, the 10% of the population who are most strongly opposed to moving heating away from gas and towards electric powered ground source or air source heat pumps, are also the section of the population who know most about heat pumps!
Obstacles to their adoption include the high up front costs of heat pumps and the disruption that installing the necessary bigger radiators and often new water tanks entails. This suggests that this is a policy option that would create the most public concern.
What the figures do show is that there is high public confidence in gas, with almost a third of gas users describing their existing heating system as “environmentally-friendly”.
Furthermore, there is a strong preference in public attitudes for future solutions that are nationally planned, and that cause minimum disruption for domestic consumers.
Both of these findings support the strategy of keeping the gas network, and sourcing the gas within it from renewable sources in future, such as hydrogen and biogas made from municipal waste.
The Gas Users Organisation strongly believes that the public needs to be involved in the debate about the future of domestic heating, and that there must be no decision by experts behind closed doors that leads to higher heating costs for families, potentially forcing more people into fuel poverty.”