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    Cost of Living Crisis significantly impacting UK’s ability to hit Net Zero targets

    20 September 2023

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    • Two thirds of consumers unable to be sustainable due to cost.
    • It’s crunch time for Net Zero and households are relying on businesses to help them become ‘greener.’
    • Bill anxiety remains high, with more than half of the population saying that energy bills negatively impact every area of their life.
    • But as families try to bring down energy costs, it has naturally improved efficiency.
    • Businesses and Government now encouraged to help households feel empowered and knowledgeable to maintain new habits, while supporting the most vulnerable in society. 
    • Hear more from UK Energy Diarists here.

    With households once again preparing for an uncertain winter, major new research from Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network with over 11 million customers, has warned that the ongoing cost of living crisis could have long-term ramifications for Great Britain in hitting vital Net Zero targets. As part of its ongoing ‘Energy Diaries’ consumer insight series, in partnership with Thinks Insight, new findings revealed that over two thirds of consumers are struggling to be sustainable because they simply can’t afford to be. While reassuringly, the research highlighted that over 50 per cent of people think it’s important for everyone to be ‘greener’, managing every day costs remains the priority, with more than half saying that energy bills negatively impact every area of their life.

    With the countdown to Net Zero well and truly on, the new research aimed to understand how the UK feels about sustainability, particularly against the current financial backdrop. According to the figures from Cadent and Thinks Insight, over 50 per cent disagree that energy companies or the government are doing enough to help, with 71 per cent not even contacting their suppliers for bill and energy efficiency support because they don't think they'll do anything to help. Furthermore, many believe that the UK should be taking the lead in driving a greener future.

    Mark Belmega, Director of Sustainability and Social Purpose at Cadent, commented: “While the cost-of-living crisis is still very much affecting daily life, we must also consider the long-term impact. While 2050 might feel like a long way off, when it comes to the UK reaching Net Zero or not, very much hangs in the balance right now and to meet ambitious targets, there must be a dedicated effort from all areas of society – we can’t afford to be derailed.”

    Mark continued: “Although on the face of it, the cost-of-living crisis has stalled personal sustainability progress, with families trying to bring down their energy costs to save money, it has naturally improved efficiency. Continuing to harness this behavioural shift could be one way to proactively impact Net Zero targets. However, this must be carefully managed, with strong collaboration across both industry and government in supporting consumers, particularly those in the most vulnerable situations, to feel empowered to take action.”

    While the research also demonstrated that people are consciously making small habit changes, this won’t be enough to reach Net Zero. Therefore, businesses and the changes they make will have the largest impact on carbon reduction, with 79 per cent of customers looking to energy companies to provide leadership.

    Mark added: “At Cadent, we are focused on modernising our pipe network throughout the UK to minimise methane leakage. By 2030, we will have reduced emissions by more than the UK’s 30 per cent target and by 2032, our network will be 90 per cent ready to transport greener gases, like hydrogen, to homes and businesses throughout the country. However, it’s vital we support customers on their own ‘green’ journey and this is where the government and businesses need to take the lead in educating consumers on what they can do, to make the biggest impact.”

    Jennifer Summers, Research Director at Thinks Insight, added: “This study has shown that while being sustainable is a priority for the vast majority of people, doing so is often assumed to be something that costs money, rather than supportive in their quest to cut back in the cost-of-living crisis. This is why it is more important than ever for those trusted brands to help educate and support their customers on any simple and effective changes they can make, to ensure we’re all in a stronger position to meet Net Zero targets together.” 

    Key findings include: 

    • 86 per cent of customers are reducing energy use.
    • Almost a quarter of people (23%) do not feel confident reading their energy bills.
    • 79 per cent believe energy companies have the resources and expertise to take the lead in creating a more sustainable UK, although consumers find it difficult to trust the industry.

    Several of the participants also shared their views via ‘Energy Diary’ video interviews which can be seen here.

    If you are interested in talking to Cadent, Thinks Insight, or any of the Energy Diarists about the research, please get in touch.

    Methodology: The data was collected as part of a long-term study between March - July 2023.

    Picture Caption: Key insight from the Energy Diaries – Fair Sustainability research



    Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy. We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change. Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency. Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing.

    Future of Gas:

    Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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