High costs are stopping UK residents from going green

The Eco Experts
woman holds an empty wallet

91% of people would go green if money was no issue

69% said cost was the most important factor when buying low-carbon tech

It’d take the average person 57 years to save up enough for an electric car


An overwhelming majority of people in the UK want to buy more eco-friendly technology like electric cars and solar panels – but can’t afford the prices.

91% of UK residents would buy green products if money was no issue, but with 69% citing cost as the biggest factor they consider when looking at low-carbon items, it’s a pipe dream for most people.

These findings came from a survey of 1,150 UK residents conducted by The Eco Experts as part of our annual National Home Energy Survey report, which was released at the start of this month.

couple looking at bills and a laptop

How many people want to go greener?

60% of respondents said that the current state of energy bills made them more inclined to choose a renewable alternative.

This makes sense, as gas prices have been rising rapidly for the past year, largely due to poor government planning – but exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wholesale gas prices have risen by 335% in the past 12 months, and the cost of electricity has increased by 268%, because 35.7% of the UK’s electricity generation is powered by gas.

Naturally, people want alternatives – and it’s only logical that they’re open to eco-friendly energy sources, considering that 84% of people said they were anxious about climate change.

That fear was constant across every generation.

Younger age groups are more anxious, but only just – 88% of people under 25 years old (“Gen Z”) said they were anxious, compared to 82% of people aged 58-76 (“Boomers”).

It ain’t cheap being green

Enthusiasm for eco-friendly solutions is high among the public – but high costs are standing in the way of these green dreamers.

If money was no object, 91% of respondents would want to get at least one major piece of green technology, according to our survey.

People were excited to get heating systems like infrared panels, heat pumps, and biomass boilers, electricity units like solar panels and solar batteries, and electric vehicles.

But when our questions returned to the real world, with its tightening budgets and a rising cost of living, and respondents were asked what they were planning to buy in the next 12 months, they had to lower their sights.

Suddenly, nearly four times as many people – 34% – were unwilling to buy low-carbon technology, while the number of people wanting to buy the products listed above fell dramatically.

Why? Money, money, money. 69% of people ranked cost as the most important factor when evaluating which low-carbon product to purchase.

Every single generation listed cost as their most important factor, and it wasn’t close. The second most important factor was the product’s level of environmental impact – with just 13%.

We already know that people care about the environment – we noted above that 84% are anxious about the climate – but if they can’t afford to go green, they can’t go green.

Cost is the only barrier that’s completely objective, and completely out of people’s control – and it’s standing in the way of a full green revolution.

Breakdown by demographic

As previously mentioned, when asked which factors were the most important when looking at which low-carbon technology to buy, every generation was most concerned about cost.

But next up was the level of environmental impact, which means that if the cost element wasn’t as troubling, the public would purchase the technology that helped the climate most.

The third-most important factor (or, in some cases, joint-second) for three of the five generations was reliability – but not for Gen Z-ers, who gave that spot to the appearance of a green product.

Only 4% of this young generation put appearance as their first choice though, so let’s not rush to condemn young people, most of whom aren’t homeowners.

GenerationMost important factor2nd-most important factor3rd-most important factor
Gen ZCostLevel of environmental impactAppearance
MillennialsCostLevel of environmental impactReliability
Gen XCostLevel of environmental impact (=2nd)Reliability (=2nd)
BoomersCostLevel of environmental impact (=2nd)Reliability (=2nd)
Silent GenerationCostReliabilityMaintenance

What green tech would people buy if money was no object?

If money wasn’t a problem, a majority of people would buy an electric vehicle and solar panels.

And 39% of people would buy a heat pump to go with these other green purchases.

Enthusiasm for green technology declines in older generations, but just barely, with 12% of Boomers opting out of getting one of these pieces of green technology, compared to 7% of Gen Z.

That is, until you get to people aged 77-94 (“Silent Generation”), 30% of whom wouldn’t get any of the listed eco-friendly products, even if they didn’t have to worry about the cost.

Electric vehicles

If money was no object, 69% of respondents would buy an electric vehicle.

If 69% of UK drivers had an electric car, the country would save 49 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year – a 12% reduction in our national carbon footprint.

This enthusiasm for electric vehicles was present across all age groups, with the majority of people in every generation saying they’d buy one if they could.

Unfortunately, most people can’t. Just 17% of respondents said they planned to get an electric car in the next 12 months.

This lack of follow-through is not down to a deficit of enthusiasm. Electric cars are flying off the lots, with 190,727 sold in 2021 – more than in the five previous years combined.

And it costs three times less to run an electric car than a petrol car, on average, so once you’ve bought an electric model, you’ll save money and help the climate.

But electric vehicles can’t take over from fossil-fuelled cars at current prices. The average electric vehicle costs £43,896 – which is twice as expensive as the average car.

At this rate, they won’t be cheaper than their polluting counterparts until 2027.

To reach its own goal of net zero by 2050, the government must think bigger and invest more in making electric vehicles cheaper to buy.

Initiatives like the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme – which offered a £350 deposit for homeowners to get their own charger, and now is only available to renters and flat owners – are small potatoes.

Even the plug-in grant, which takes a maximum of £1,500 off the cost of an electric car, won’t move the dial.

The government must massively reduce the cost of electric vehicles at the point of purchase.

Solar panels

61% of people would get solar panels if money was no object.

Considering 3.5% of UK homes currently have solar arrays, that would represent a massive increase in our renewable electricity levels – which are already at 43.1%.

Plus, it would massively reduce our national emissions. If 61% of households used solar panels, it would eradicate 23.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – a 5.8% saving.

And yet, only 10% of people actually plan to buy solar panels in the next 12 months.

It’s not their fault – a solar panel system costs £4,800 on average, which is more than most households can afford.

And the government’s move to cut VAT on energy-saving items from 5% to 0% will barely make a difference, especially as most solar panel installers are already in the process of increasing their prices, due to rising fuel costs.

But apart from the Silent Generation, a majority of all generations would get solar panels if they could.

It even makes economic sense for the government to subsidise solar panels, as their presence is valuable to home buyers.

Our survey found 65% of people are more likely to buy a house with solar panels, while only 7% are less likely.

Summary

The best way for the government to achieve its net-zero goals and effectively fight climate change is to reduce the intimidating upfront cost people face when they look at buying green technology.

The government wants to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 – but its Boiler Upgrade Scheme’s £5,000 discount still leaves homeowners to pay the remaining £5,000.

On average, a solar panel system costs £4,800, a biomass boiler costs £6,000 after a Boiler Upgrade Scheme discount, and an electric car costs £43,896.

A UK resident typically has £64.50 of disposable income per month – meaning it would take 6.5 years to save up for a heat pump, 6.2 years for solar panels, 7.8 years for a biomass boiler, and 57 years to buy an electric vehicle – if they gave up leisure activities completely.

It’s simply not good enough.

To get the full data for the survey, please email charlie.clissitt@theecoexperts.co.uk.

josh jackman
Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.

Back to Top