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Net carbon neutral - the only way to success

PlaceShapers CEO Rachael Orr blogs

“For the UK, achieving net zero in domestic heating is perhaps the greatest challenge of all sector transitions.”  

So said the OBR last week in its fiscal risks report for the UK economy. Of course, this challenge is huge in terms of technology – and money.  

But it’s also huge in terms of behaviour change. Just about every household in the UK is going to get a new heating system in the coming years, one that heats their home differently. We have to start telling people about this – about why it’s so important, about the impact that it will have on them, and about the advantages it can bring – but also begin to involve them in the planning and process from the start.  

That’s why in February PlaceShapers and Tpas ran focus groups with 100 social housing residents. We wanted to know what they knew about carbon emissions from their homes’ heating. We wanted to know if they had heard about the need for new heating systems, or retrofits of their homes.  We also wanted to start to test some messages that would resonate with them about upgrading their heating.  

Our report has a number of key findings and recommendations for the Government and social landlords. But what we heard loud and clearly was there was a real interest in and appetite for more joint working on resident engagement and communication. And we heard loud and clear from them too about the importance of doing this right with action now. 

So, tomorrow, we are launching phase two of our work. We have a communications and steering group meetings today, formed of residents, social landlords, industry professional and retrofit experts and residents, to help us develop some work we hope to roll out through the autumn.  

We heard that we need to collect stories and case studies of people who have had new heating systems installed. So we are going to start pulling these together.  

We heard that it’s really beneficial to hear from other landlords who have carried out successful retrofit works. So we are planning a week of events in October to hear about retrofits that have succeeded – and failed – so we can discuss and share the lessons.  

We heard that, actually, heat pumps aren’t that user friendly. We don’t think that’s the users’ fault. So we want to delve into where the technology needs to work better, and work with the tech companies to improve it.  

And finally, we heard that there is much more we need to do to get some clear communications messages that resonate with residents. SO we want to run a lot more focus groups, have a lot more conversations, and try and develop e messaging for the sector to use to help make these conversations easier.  

We have been really struck by the energy and passion both landlords and residents have brought to this project so far. Now we want to build on the momentum and see how we can ensure residents voices are at the forefront of this most challenging of transitions.  

We are all clear - it’s the only way it has a chance of succeeding.  

Rachael Orr

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