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Are we ready for zero carbon homes to hit the mainstream?

Elsa Hatakka
27 March 2024
in collaboration with FTI Consulting’s Energy Team
A set of mobile screens showing Zoa’s range of consumer experiences. From EV smart charging to home energy management to automated email responses.

On 13 March 2024, we had the pleasure of hosting another session in our 'Electrify Everything' breakfast series. This event brought together top minds in the energy sector – spanning industry, academia, and policy – to discuss zero carbon homes. Joining Zoa’s co-CEO Tom Fraine were Karl Bach (co-founder and CEO, Axel Energy), Andrew Crossland (Director of New Energy, SolarZero), Penelope Hope (Consultant, founder and former COO of Rebel Energy), and Annabel Rice (Political Adviser, Green Alliance).

Here are the essential takeaways around the zero-carbon home economy:

Consumers are ready for zero carbon homes, but zero carbon homes need to be financially attractive

The technologies required for a zero-carbon home future are already available; heat pumps, solar panels, and insulation upgrades all offer clear benefits. Similarly, the majority of the population acknowledge the risks associated with climate change and are keen to tackle the issue.

Yet even though the technologies and the will are present, cost is king for consumers. Worries about climate change can only go so far, and zero-carbon homes need to be financially attractive.

In the latest estimates, roughly 13% of households in the UK were classed as fuel poor. If more than 6 million people are struggling to pay for heating, purchasing the necessary upgrades and running a fully electrified home remains firmly out of reach. 

Suppliers, installers, and software providers must all work together to drive costs down and ensure they are offering economically attractive zero-carbon proposals. This is key to shift zero-carbon homes from early adopters to mass-market uptake.

From energy consumer to energy prosumer

Closely linked to the financial aspect is the manner in which companies communicate around zero carbon solutions.

The current rhetoric centres around cost saving for consumers. But a shift to talking about being an energy ‘prosumer’ could spark widespread public interest. Seeing assets not just as cost saving but also revenue making solutions is far more attractive for the public. For example, through technology and flexibility providers like Axle Energy, consumers can now participate in “demand response events”. During these peak grid times, home batteries and EV chargers can be automatically dispatched. In a single 1.5h event in 2023, Axle found consumers earned over £50 (read more about how their algorithm did it here). This empowers consumers to become active participants in stabilising the grid, reducing costs while earning income from their own devices. 

Wider public awareness is key

Consumer awareness of zero-carbon options is essential to unlocking mass uptake of heat pumps, insulation, and other solutions. 

At present, many are unfamiliar with – or lack trust in – what they view as novel options. Scepticism around EVs and heat pumps is a particular issue. Regardless of whether this arises from misinformation or simply a lack of exposure, the end result is the same: delays in adopting deeply necessary technologies. 

Tackling this lack of trust head on is essential and can be achieved through a variety of channels. Panellists pointed to access schemes like Nesta’s Visit a Heat Pump, and floated the idea of a public discoverable brand for clean tech solutions – think Ikea, but for heat pumps, solar panels, and more. 

Tackling tricky policy questions head-on

Years of underinvestment in supply chains and training mean that we are currently behind schedule on roll-out of zero carbon solutions. Government and policymakers must make significant resources available to tackle this shortfall.

Innovation to solve slow uptake

Innovation is key to the success of zero carbon homes. Panellists highlighted ongoing efforts to supercharge renewable technologies, including new solar developments which maximise the use of batteries and change the dynamics of how our energy systems operate.

At Zoa we recognise the transformative role technology has to play in transforming the consumer experience, managing devices, and rendering electrification far more accessible. Only through harnessing the power of technology can we make zero carbon homes a reality.

Video from the event

You can view the full discussion here.

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June 12, 2024

Are we ready for zero carbon homes to hit the mainstream?

Key takeaways from another session in our 'Electrify Everything' series that brought together top minds in the energy sector – spanning industry, academia, and policy – to discuss zero carbon home economy.