Energy efficiency: More UK homes eyeing green upgrades as energy bills soar, survey indicates

Growing numbers of people in the UK are considering making green upgrades to their home, yet three-quarters are still reticent to invest in energy improvements even despite soaring energy bill costs that are expected to rise yet further later this year, new polling figures suggest .

A survey of almost 5,000 households carried out in mid-May by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) quizzed respondents on their attitudes to the rising costs of living in the UK, and on their feelings towards efficiency, which is widely seen as key to driving down energy bills, fuel poverty and emissions.

Over a quarter of UK adults – 26 per cent – said they were now considering making changes in their homes to improve energy efficiency, marking a slight uptick from 19 per cent when the question was last asked by the ONS in autumn 2021.

The most common green home upgrades being considered among these respondents include improving insulation (42 per cent), making other energy efficiency improvements (32 per cent), switching energy supplier (24 per cent) and installing solar panels (21 per cent), installing a smart meter (17 per cent) and switching to an alternative heating source (16 per cent).

The rise in interest in energy efficiency measure coincides with surging energy and other living costs such as food over the past six months due to lingering Covid-19 supply issues further exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has sent global fossil fuel prices soaring as nations scramble to reduce their dependency on Russian gas.

However, almost three-quarters of adults in the survey (74 per cent) said they were still not considering making any energy efficiency improvement to their homes, of which 36 per cent said doing so would cost too much, and 29 per cent said it was because they did not own their home. 26 per cent also said they felt their home was already efficient enough, while 15 per cent feared green upgrades would not offer value for money.

Friday’s ONS survey figures, which covered a range of questions on the costs of living, also revealed that almost nine in 10 respondents – 88 per cent – reported their living costs as having risen over the past month, up from 62 per cent in November. 93 per cent pointed to an increase in food prices, while 85 per cent noted a rise in gas and electricity bills, and 78 per cent said they had experienced an uptick in the price of fuel, according to ONS.

Last week the government unveiled a fresh £15bn package of support for households contending with soaring energy costs, partially funded through a windfall tax on oil and gas firms expected to raise £5bn this year. Yet the package included no additional funding geared towards improving energy efficiency, despite consistent calls from business groups, charities, energy companies and think tanks for the government to ramp up energy efficiency efforts to help tackle the cost of living crisis.

Plans to offer oil and gas firms a 91 per cent tax relief on their investments in UK fossil fuel extraction have also suffered heavy criticism in recent days, with the New Economics Foundation (NED) think tank estimating the policy could cost the taxpayer around £1.9 bn a year, while also encouraging investment in potentially economically unviable oil and gas projects.

Stuart Adam, a senior economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), also last week highlighted risks that the tax relief offer for oil and gas firms could backfire. “The new super-deduction means that investing £100 in the North Sea will cost companies only £8.75, with the remaining cost paid by the government,” he explained. “So a massively loss-making investment could still be profitable after tax. It is hard to see why the government should provide such huge tax subsides and thereby incentivise even economically unviable projects.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s pledge to almost eliminate Russian fossil fuel imports by the end of the year has prompted rising energy supply concerns, with reports today revealing the government has asked National Grid to bolster electricity supplies with coal power this winter in order to bolster back- up supplies.

The Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has written to the owners of the UK’s remaining coal-fired power in order to encourage them to stay open longer than planned, in order to make sure extra generating capacity not fueled by as is available on the UK grid, according to the Telegraph.

National Grid, moreover, is also reportedly holding emergency talks with energy firms to ramp up gas pipeline capacity, while Centrica is also in talks with the government over reopening a fossil gas storage facility off the east coast of England with the lure of over £1bn of subsides, the newspaper reports.

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