A new report for the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the Public acceptability of the use of hydrogen for heating and cooking in the home by Madano and Element Energy assesses the wider acceptance of two alternative low-carbon technologies for heating the home: hydrogen heating and heat pumps. These technologies could potentially replace natural gas in many UK households as part of the government’s efforts to decrease carbon emissions in the UK.
The report, released yesterday, is based on results from qualitative and quantitative research in the UK. The key findings are:
– carbon emissions reduction is viewed as an important issue, but there is limited awareness of the need to decarbonise household heating or the implications of switching over to low-carbon heating technologies
– acceptability of both heating technologies is limited by a lack of perceived tangible consumer benefit, which has the potential to drive scepticism towards the switch over more generally
– heating technology preferences are not fixed at this stage, although heat pumps appear to be the favoured option in this research study
– three overarching factors were identified as influencing preferences for heating technologies. The factors are: perceptions of the negative installation burden, familiarity with the lived experience of using the technologies for heating, and perceptions of how well the technologies would meet modern heating needs
– both hydrogen heating and heat pumps face significant challenges to secure public acceptability
Three overarching factors which influenced preferences for heating technologies are described. These factors manifested differently for different people, meaning that the same factor could lead one person to prefer heat pumps and another to prefer hydrogen depending on their overall heating preferences and understanding of the two technologies.
– Perceptions of negative installation burden: The direct implications of the processes of installation for households were a key barrier to acceptance.
– Familiarity of the lived experience of using the technologies in home, once installed: Unfamiliar aspects of the heating technologies created uncertainty for the public and required them to consider how they would adopt new heating behaviours and habits.
– Perceptions of how well technologies would meet modern heating needs: Heat pumps and hydrogen heating were judged by the extent to which they are seen to offer comfort and convenience, as well as their ability to align with the trajectory of a smarter home – that is technologies that are quieter, faster and concealed.
This research allows strong conclusions to be drawn around the specific factors that drive public acceptability of alternatives to natural gas. The way in which different aspects of each heating technology are framed can influence views and ultimately swing opinion. Installation burden is of most immediate concern to the public, whilst longer-term concerns relating to system familiarity and meeting heating needs are also influential and require more considered thought.