Electrification of Heat - Participant Recruitment Report

The Electrification of Heat (EoH) demonstration project is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  (BEIS) and seeks to better understand the feasibility of a large-scale rollout of heat pumps across the UK.

EoH aims to demonstrate that  heat pumps can be installed in a wide variety of homes and deliver high customer satisfaction across a range of customer groups. It is also evaluating products and services that increase the appeal of heat pumps and identifying optimal solutions for a wide range of  homes. The project is ongoing but the participant recruitment stage – to which this report refers – was completed in summer 2021.

The project is managed on behalf of the government by a consortium led by Energy Systems Catapult and including LPC Delta-EE and Oxford Computer Consultants. Three Delivery Contractors (DCs) were appointed in June 2020 to recruit consumers, survey properties, install heat pump heating systems and monitor their performance. The DCs are:

  • E.ON: working with Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle in the Newcastle area;
  • OVO Energy: working with Kaluza, RetrofitWorks, Parity Projects and SunAmp in the South East of England; and
  • Warmworks: working with Changeworks in the South East of Scotland.

The project had a target to install heat pumps in up to 750 homes across Great Britain in a representative range of housing archetypes, with the majority on the gas grid. The project recruited participants from different social demographic groups through a customer journey including home survey and heat pump design. This process started in Autumn 2020 and was completed in Autumn 2021, with the delivery timeline severely impacted by COVID-19. The majority of recruited participants did not progress through to installation, because they either did not meet the project requirements or withdrew from the project. Overall, 742 heat pumps were installed as part of the project.

This report provides insights and data from the participant recruitment stage of the project, and insights into the participants’ motivations and barriers for participating in the project. The aims of this report are to provide a view of:

  • Approaches to engaging and recruiting participants in the project,
  • The reasons why participants did or did not decide to participate in the project,
  • Differences in customer groups who were for / against heat pump installation,
  • How customers can be better targeted for recruitment,
  • What leads to greater customer satisfaction,
  • Other lessons from the participant recruitment stage of the project.

A separate report will be produced by the project‘s Evaluation Contractor (ICF) which will consider how satisfied households were with each stage of the customer journey, including the recruitment stage, and to what extent the approaches used by contractors contributed to successful recruitment. This report will be based on direct research with participants and go into further detail on the participant experience.

Key points

Level of interest in heat pumps

The project was very successful in generating 8,807 expressions of interest Whilst interest levels were likely influenced by the offer of a free heat pump, it indicates a potential high level of interest amongst householders for installing low carbon heating systems in their homes. About 40% (3,205) of those who expressed an interest were recruited to the project. The remaining 60% were ‘triaged out’ or dropped out before the home survey stage. In some cases, properties were only ‘triaged out’ for project specific reasons, e.g. recruitment quotas were met.

Targeting and recruiting customers

The three DCs in the project utilised different approaches to target and recruit customers. OVO focused recruitment on their own customer base whilst E.ON and Warmworks both targeted customers in geographical areas. All carried out housing stock analysis to identify areas of high potential and/or inform marketing campaigns.

The project was successful in recruiting a wide variety of customers across different tenures, ages and socioeconomic groups, and across a variety of property types.

Motivations and awareness of heat pumps

Participants awareness of heat pumps varied from none to extremely knowledgeable. The three most common reasons given for wanting to participate in the project were sustainability and low carbon heating (78%), interest in new technology (63%) and free heat pump installation (53%).

Customer barriers to proceeding with the project

The main barrier reported by participants to progressing to a heat pump installation was the disruption of having the heat pump installed. This was reported by 47% of participants who declined a heat pump installation. However, disruption was less often cited by participants motivated to join the trial because they needed a replacement heating system, suggesting that households needing a solution more urgently may be more tolerant.

Managing a heat pump project

The project has provided insights into how to manage a large-scale heat pump installation project and useful lessons for a wider heat pump rollout. Firstly, recruiting, engaging and supporting customers was found to be resource intensive. Installing a heat  pump can be a complex process and customers need the support to provide reassurance, and to ensure the design of the system meets their needs. Furthermore, customer dropouts should be expected at every stage of the journey and higher volumes of customers need to be recruited to account for this. In addition, external delays in progressing customers through to installation may need to be factored in – such as applying for planning permission and Distribution Network Operator (DNO) approvals.

Read the Report

Electrification of Heat demonstration project - Participant Recruitment Report

Best practice and recommendations for deploying heat pumps

Targeting customers

  • Use a variety of marketing channels and approaches to recruit householders.
  • Utilise existing customer relationships with organisations that customers trust. For example, OVO was successful in recruiting from existing energy supply customers, and E.ON utilised local authority endorsement to gain the confidence of customers who weren’t necessarily supplied by E.ON.
  • Use environmental messaging to target customers around heat pumps. Be cautious about promoting fuel bill savings to customers where this cannot be guaranteed.

Early engagement (i.e. initial contact prior to the home survey)

  • Provide customers with an overview of the customer journey so they know the stages to anticipate and what the process will entail.
  • Set expectations with customers about what installing and living with a heat pump will entail, especially around the potential level of disruption during install.
  • However, on both of the above points, careful communication is required, such as high level information at the early stages of engagement, and much greater detail is given at a later stage – such as during the home survey. Communication needs to come from an appropriate individual.
  • Give customers a key customer services contact who they can contact throughout the process for queries and questions.
  • Maximise the use of triaging at the start of the customer journey to identify issues (such as space constraints or presence of microbore piping).
  • Accommodate customer preferences into the design process as early as possible to increase customer satisfaction.

Managing the process

  • Consider the resources required to properly engage recruit and support customers.
  • Factor in dropouts at each stage of the customer journey.
  • Factor in delays in progressing customers to installation, such as planning permission or DNO connection request approval.

Upskilling contractors

  • Installers, surveyors, retrofit coordinators in relation to customer communications. Technical experts may not be the best people to have conversations with customers at an early stage of the process.

Recommendations for Government and industry

DNO approvals

  • Approval processes to connect heat pumps to electricity networks needs to be more consistent, faster and have capacity for bulk applications. This is covered in greater detail in the Home Surveys and Installation report.

Planning permission

  • There is a need for greater consistency of planning permission rules in different areas and an assessment of whether rules could be changed to deliver better consumer outcomes and to enable greater numbers of heat pumps to be installed. In the current situation, certain property types will not be able to be fitted with heat pumps due to noise and boundary issues related to  planning permission, but there is a lack of evidence to say whether these rules are appropriate.

Technical solutions

  • The key customer barrier to installing a heat pump was disruption and many of these cases related to existing microbore pipework in homes. Technical solutions to make a heat pump installation less disruptive could significantly help overcome this barrier. In some instances, it can also be that current guidance is not fit for purpose – for example, the Microgeneration  Certification Scheme (MCS) guidance on microbore pipework is being amended.

Guidance to industry

  • Better guidance to industry (e.g., installers, surveyors, retrofit coordinators) on how to successfully engage with customers.

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