Orbit Group publishes net zero homes report

Energy storage solutions for social housing

The latest report from Orbit Group – 2500 Days – Navigating the path to net zero carbon homes with our customersreveals the challenge of driving the behavioural changes to achieve net zero carbon goals at a time when residents are focused on the current cost-of-living crisis.

Orbit Group spoke to over 700 hundred households and found that awareness and understanding of net zero carbon has not increased significantly among social housing residents since Orbit’s inaugural report on the topic was published in September 2021.

The report highlights the creep of fuel poverty in the UK, with a greater proportion (80%) spending more than 10% of their income on energy costs compared to 71% in 2021. There has also been a 50% increase in the number of customers going without heat to save money in the past 12 months.

Just one in four respondents (26%) said they were clear on what net zero means compared to 22% in 2021. However, concern regarding climate change has increased, with 38% saying that they were ‘very concerned’ compared to 30% in 2021.

Amid spiralling energy costs, 75% of those involved in the research said they are interested in changing their behaviours to become more energy efficient.

David March, Head of Environmental Sustainability at Orbit, is disappointed but not surprised by the slow progress on increasing knowledge and understanding of net zero carbon. He said:

It underlines the need to make the journey to net zero carbon personal and relevant to our customers. Rather than setting targets, we should talk about creating cheaper to heat, warm, comfortable homes.

The somewhat low-key response to heating innovation is understandable and largely driven by a lack of reliable information. It highlights a knowledge gap and sometimes a misconception – and this is something that housing associations are well-placed to address with the support of our supply chain partners.

In the report, Orbit outlines a four-point plan to drive engagement among households on net zero carbon as it moves from the pilot phase of its retrofitting project to rolling it out across its entire housing stock. Orbit’s £3.6 million Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator project, which has received £1.45million in government funding, has made 69 homes in the Stratford-upon-Avon area more energy efficient and provides a vivid illustration of the practical challenges and costs of achieving net zero carbon emissions.

Paul Richards, Group Director for Customer and Communities at Orbit, commented:

We are proud of the progress we have made during the past 12 months and recognise the value of the insight that we have gleaned along the way – it will inform our approach going forwards. But the fact remains that this is a difficult and complicated issue. 18 months on from the publication of our last report, we find ourselves in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, where energy prices have rocketed to unprecedented levels for consumers and businesses alike. Consequently, it is more important than ever to keep talking to our customers about this important and complex issue to find out how the events of the past year have affected their opinions and behaviours.

As a sector, social housing has not been immune to increased financial pressures. And yet, collectively, we are well placed to effect significant and positive change by improving the energy efficiency of 14% of the UK’s housing stock. The benefits of such projects extend far beyond the environmental, helping to address affordability and health & wellbeing issues for some of the most vulnerable households.

To download the full report visit: orbitgroup.org.uk/media/2868/nzc-report-2023.pdf

Two experts from Orbit Group are speaking in elemental’s Housing Hub at InstallerSHOW next week. Daniel Welch, Energy and Environmental Lead, is speaking on 27th June in a panel session about tackling fuel poverty. Fallon Warren, Senior Retrofit Building Surveyor, is speaking about retrofitting hard-to-treat properties on 29th June.

Join us at InstallerSHOW 27th to 29th June at the NEC in Birmingham. Free tickets: installer-2023-visitor.reg.buzz