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August 25, 2011

'Green Gap' Among British Homeowners is Delaying Cleantech Deployments



Research conducted during the first week in August by a London-based utility and environmental consultancy has found that British homeowners are eager to go green and produce their own energy –but are reluctant to take action, based on a lack of renewable energy knowledge and the poor economy.

Gemserv‘s study of more than 2,000 British adults found that 61 percent of homeowners would consider generating their own energy, whether that is by using solar PV panels, installing air source heat pumps, using biomass fuel, or harnessing the power of nature by using hydro power. However, despite their appetite for renewable energy, Gemserv’s research found that the widespread lack of awareness about installation, cost savings, and benefits is stopping people from reducing their carbon footprints.

Experts have dubbed the gulf between consumers’ eagerness to embrace renewable energy technologies and their lack of knowledge about it, “The Green Gap.” According to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, if this gap could be bridged, the nation could potentially save approximately 15 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

In these challenging economic times, expense was understandably a big consideration:

  • 57 percent of homeowners who would not consider installing any of the renewable initiatives from a list they were shown said it is too expensive;
  • 32 percent of respondents were unsure how much money they could save and/or earn from renewable energy sources; and
  • 65 percent of Brits weren’t aware of the government’s financial incentive for generating renewable energy.

There is also considerable confusion around the government’s landmark Green Deal, a December 2010 energy bill that is intended “to revolutionize the energy efficiency of British properties.” In fact, the majority of consumers (54 percent) were unable to correctly recall that the Deal is related to energy efficiency initiatives. Instead, 14 percent of respondents thought that the Green Deal was related to protecting national forests and outdoor spaces; and 9 percent believed it would increase the number of hybrid cars on UK roads.

Gemserv’s research also indicated that there is more to do to gain consumer buy-in to the government’s March 2011 Carbon Plan – a response to climate change. A sizeable proportion of the UK population remains unmoved by environmental concerns. The UK’s 26 million homes are responsible for 14 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions, yet more than one-quarter (28 percent) of respondents would not consider installing energy efficiency measures in their own homes, such as double glazing, efficient boilers, or loft and wall insulation, despite the associated cost savings.

Gemserv CEO David Thorne commented, “I am encouraged by some of these findings, as I am delighted that nearly half the population would like to install renewable energy technologies. What worries me is the lack of fundamental awareness surrounding it. To bridge the Green Gap, it is essential we continue to educate consumers and break down some of the myths surrounding the Green Deal, energy efficiency and micro-generation.”

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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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