The research project was launched to gauge public opinion on energy costs and to find out what the public understand about renewable energy, and is part of an Eco Experts drive "to change UK misconceptions about renewable energy and encourage people to reconsider the way they power their homes and the way they pay for that power," says David Thomas, an Eco Experts writer.
1994 men and women from across the UK were asked a number of questions about energy use and about the sustainable alternatives to buying from the National Grid.
Out of those surveyed, 92% of those asked worry about rising energy prices. This speaks volumes of the UK energy market in which energy prices have risen at a rate of 6.6% above the rate of inflation between 2005-11. The remaining 8% of people – the ones who are unfazed by cost - represent society's high earners, but even then only half of the 8% would be able to comfortably deal with a 30% rise in their energy bill.
After establishing that there is a problem with high energy costs, the researchers go on to explore a possible solution. Microgeneration is the practise of generating one's own electricity. Solar PV – consisting of photovoltaic panels typically installed on South-facing rooftops – is the most popular microgeneration technology on the market today.
The principal benefit of solar panels is that it ensures cheap energy for the full lifetime of the panels, which is typically around 40 years. However, when you are accustomed to quarterly electricity bills of £313 (the national average), any large investment can seem very steep.
The model is to pay small amounts regularly, not to invest up-front in technology that will save you small amounts of money regularly. This is fine, but the small amounts that people are used to paying are now increasingly expensive.
'Perceived cost' is one possible explanation for the reticence to switch over to solar. The Eco Experts (http://www.theecoexperts.co.uk) research reveals that although solar comes with a high perceived cost, not many are aware of how much that is. One in three understand that a solar installation can save and generate £1,000 per year, but twice that number don't know how much solar panels costs to have installed. From this, The Eco Experts infer that solar is widely acknowledged as an effective technology, but that people price it far higher than it actually costs to install.
This hypothesis is supported by the finding that solar has become more popular: less than 20% of people now would still not install solar PV if there was no upfront cost. It came as a surprise to two thirds of the subjects that there is precisely this kind of solar loan available to them in the UK.
The Eco Experts team were prepared to find a lack of understanding about renewable energy; until now there has been no viable alternative to buying power from the National Grid at whatever rate the energy companies stipulate. However the extent of the public's misunderstanding has come as a surprise.
Speaking for The Eco Experts, David Thomas said, "Our research has basically shown that people are very anxious about the cost of energy and the fact that it lies outside of their control. They try to save energy but still their bills are rising. And all the while, as most of the UK is feeling this way, there is a solution that is being undervalued and overlooked."
The key results of The Eco Experts research are as follows:
- 92% are worried about rising energy costs
- Only 4% would be able to afford to pay their bills if for any reason they required 30% more power.
- As solar panels become more common and their appearance more accepted, the main reason people don't install solar panels is its perceived cost.
- Fewer than 30% know how much solar panels cost.
- Only around 30% understand that solar PV generates up to £1,000 per year.
- More than 80% would install solar panels for no upfront cost.
- Only around 30% realise there are solar loans available.
- Only 10% over people would not improve their energy efficiency rating if there was no upfront cost.
Read the full report at: http://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/