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Brits held back from house and car green upgrades by high upfront costs

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

Households say they are being held back from switching to green heating and vehicles because of the high upfront costs of new technology.

A survey of 4,000 consumers carried out by accountancy firm PWC found those on average incomes were half as likely to consider switching to an electric vehicle or installing a heat pump than higher earners because of the price barrier.

According to the firm, the UK needs to increase its current rate of decarbonisation by 50% to meet interim targets to net zero by 2050. It says analysis carried out this month shows that the UK is on track to miss the target for 2030.

Using taxpayers’ money

With cost being the main barrier for upgrading to green technology, 42% of those surveyed said they would support the use of taxpayers’ funds to make green alternatives cheaper, rather than penalise polluting choices.

Meanwhile, the majority of UK voters surveyed who live in rural areas believe that discounts on energy bills would help build greater support for new onshore wind turbines. More than 70% said they would support a wind farm within three miles of their home, but this fell to 56% for new pylons to upgrade the grid.

Over half of UK adults would support the Government using taxpayer money to fund EV battery production in the UK.

Switching to heat pumps

As part of the Government’s Net Zero plan, 250,000 heat pumps will be installed in existing homes each year by 2025, however only 40,000 were actually retrofitted in 2022.

Only 12% of all homeowners said they were likely to consider switching from a gas boiler to a heat pump in the next few years. A small number (3%) have recently made the switch.

Of average earners, only 10% are likely to consider switching; half the rate of the highest earners.

Among older homeowners, only 6% of those aged 65 years old or more are likely to consider switching.

The high upfront cost of heat pumps, which can be in excess of £10,000 and a lack of trust in green technology are cited as the biggest barriers.

PWC says reducing the cost of heat pumps will be a crucial step along with building consumer confidence and engaging older consumers, who are less willing to make major changes or pay higher upfront costs despite longer term household bill savings.

Concerns over electric vehicles

Just less than 20% of adults on average incomes say they would considering moving from a petrol or diesel car to an electric vehicle in the coming years, half that of higher earners, with 49% stating the price tag as the single biggest barrier. Some 21% are worried about the extent of charge point infrastructure.

Laura Hinton, tax leader, at PwC, 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.

“The Government has said consumers need to want to jump into going electric, rather than being pushed, but our research highlights a clear appetite for a certain level of financial incentivisation to spur on people making the leap. 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 encourage behavioural change.”