How COVID-19 affects consumer heating behaviors in five key European markets

A new study released by new energy market research consultancy DELTA-EE reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer heating behaviors in five European markets.

The study has revealed that up to 80% of gas and electricity consumers in the UK, Italy, France, Netherlands and Germany are considering behavioural changes to reduce heating bills this winter.

Eight-in-ten people identified at least one additional action they would take this year in preparation for the heating season.

The findings show the most popular changes people will make include monitoring energy consumption more closely (net 45% more likely), adjusting their usage times to help manage expenditure (net 37%), and getting the heating system serviced (net 30%).

Up to 9% of respondents have already changed an energy supplier in a bid to cut costs. However, actions requiring a more significant financial investment proved less popular, such as replacing older heating systems or taking out a maintenance contract, with 25% of respondents stating they were now less likely to take this action.

The research also highlighted increasing popularity of low-carbon heating systems – with 46% of respondents reporting that these are appealing.

Governments across Europe have introduced schemes to help support green improvements to heating infrastructure, including the Super Ecobonus in Italy and extending the Green Homes Grant in the UK.

These schemes have achieved high awareness amongst respondents, peaking at 72% amongst Italians. However, across the board, intended uptake is between 11% to 32%, showcasing a disparity between awareness and desire to act.

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Lindsay Sugden, the head of heat, Delta-EE, said: “Given the financial backdrop of this winter, it’s not unsurprising to see people looking to reduce bills through immediate cost-saving actions rather than making investments in return for longer-term savings. We’re seeing customers take a more active role in managing their heating which could spark a greater focus on these activities in future years too. This means that revenues for European utilities and heating companies will likely be quite different compared to a typical heating season.

“Support schemes to date have not driven the exponential growth in low carbon heating needed to meet net-zero. Time for some more sticks as well as carrots?

“The transport sector has seen decisive action of late (including “sticks” like future petrol and diesel car bans). It’s time decarbonisation of heat saw similar bold action and caught the public’s attention.”