Published On: Tue, Jun 18th, 2024

Energy-efficiency pledges ‘undermined by lack of consumer confidence’

New polling commissioned by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has revealed that Labour and Conservative party plans for renewed investment in domestic energy-efficiency initiatives are likely to be undermined by a lack of consumer awareness about available funding support, unfamiliarity with the technology involved, and uncertainty about where to find reliable tradespeople to carry out green energy upgrade work.

With Labour pledging an initial investment of £6.6bn to make the UK’s homes more energy-efficient via its Warm Homes Plan, and the Conservatives promising £6bn investment in domestic energy-efficiency measures over the next three years, CTSI predicts an upsurge in activity by criminals who will exploit consumers’ confusion to access some of the funds available.

According to CTSI’s new research:

  • Just under half (43%) of homeowners are actively considering installing energy-efficiency measures in their homes, for a combination of financial and environmental reasons.
  • Well over one third (41%) said they are unaware of funding schemes and incentives and how to apply for them, while around one fifth (18%) are being deterred because they are unfamiliar with the technology involved or don’t know where to find a reliable installer.
  • Among those who are not considering upgrading their homes, 56% said energy-efficiency technology is currently too expensive.

CTSI is calling for a mandatory licensing system for installers of domestic energy-efficiency measures, and is stressing the need for properly trained, reliable and Trading Standards-approved businesses in the sector.

To achieve the net zero target by 2050, the UKs 28 million households will need to be upgraded to at least Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C, at an approximate total cost of £249.5bn.[1] This will require the widespread installation of energy-efficiency measures by an army of properly trained and trustworthy businesses. CTSI estimates, however, that as many as 5 million UK households are being deterred from installing energy-efficiency measures because they are unfamiliar with the technology involved or dont know where to find a reliable installer. 

CTSI’s research found that more than two thirds (71%) of homeowners would be more likely to have domestic energy-efficiency measures such as heat pumps, solar panels and cavity wall insulation installed if a trader had been independently approved and certified. Half (50%) of homeowners said they would be more likely to choose an installer who had been vetted and approved by a Trading Standards-backed scheme.

A lack of consumer awareness has made the domestic energy-efficiency sector ripe for exploitation by rogue traders using aggressive sales tactics and making misleading claims – factors which led to the scrapping of the government’s Green Homes Grant scheme in 2021, severely dented consumer confidence, and caused many financial service providers to withdraw from funding domestic energy-efficiency projects.

The Approved Code Scheme, which was originally established by government and is now run by CTSI, includes members who independently verify that traders in the domestic energy-efficiency sector are properly trained and competent to install home energy-efficiency measures.

They require traders who belong to the scheme to adhere to professional standards that align with consumer protection law, and to demonstrate high levels of customer service, including robust complaints-handling and after-care procedures, as well as access to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services in case disagreements with customers arise.

Code members can also provide reliable, accurate information about energy-efficiency technology and government-backed funding schemes and incentives, helping homeowners find the solutions and funding options that are most appropriate to them.

John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI said: “It is good to see promises of investment in energy-efficiency upgrades in the party manifestos. Achieving net zero will require all of us to play our part in ensuring that the energy-efficiency measures installed in our homes are effective, safe and fit for the future. This is an area that is crying out for clarity and improved consumer confidence, with a bewildering array of funding schemes, new technologies and different organisations with overlapping remits creating a muddled picture and an overcrowded playing field.

“It is vital that we build consumer confidence and trust in the sector, as well as improving the environmental credentials of the UK’s housing stock. The Approved Code Scheme exists to build that trust and improve environmental standards, to the benefit of consumers, legitimate businesses, and the planet.”

Steve Playle, CTSI Lead Officer for Energy and Net Zero said: “The move towards achieving net zero by 2050 is going to affect every single household across the UK. The technology around heat pumps, insulation, solar panels and home battery storage is very complex and very expensive, and many consumers are particularly vulnerable to attractive-sounding claims about how they can save money on energy bills. As always, there are good traders in this sector but, make no mistake, there are plenty of bad ones out there too who are looking to exploit the situation. The problem for consumers is knowing which ones to trust.

“Previous Government backed schemes such as the Green Deal and the Green Homes Grant have spectacularly failed and CTSI are trying their best to influence policy as we move closer to 2050.”

Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of Approved Code scheme member HIES, said:

“Homes will play an important role in helping achieve the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, with new technologies emerging and consumers’ understanding being relatively low, it’s important that consumer protection is at the centre. Consumer Codes play an important role in educating and protecting consumers and only traders who are a member of an Approved Code should be used.”