Does the UK have the capacity to hit Net Zero?

27th Jun 2022


Wow, that’s a huge question with massive implications. There will be some who answer, “it needs to” and they will be correct. Others will consider the depth of the question and examine the resources required; money, material scarcity, labour demands and conclude that it could be done, but with difficulty. Others, perched in their Ivory Towers, will deliver their pronouncements and expect everyone else to jump. But enough of the National Infrastructure Commission, let’s talk about real people.

I want to examine adult numeracy levels in the UK. Is our population of consumers able to examine decarbonisation options and make rational decisions based on information or not? So when we discuss whether a heat pump has a financial payback, is that concept understood? When claims are made of 10 per cent savings on your bills, is that something that can be recognised? For all of us, what do adult numeracy levels in the UK tell us about what we say and how we say it?

Did you know that 17 million adults, that’s 49 per cent of the working-age population of England, have the numeracy skills we expect of Primary School pupils? Do you think 11 year-olds should decide whether to have a heat pump, connect to a heat network or stay on a decarbonised gas grid?

To put this into some context, according to National Numeracy, 78% of adults have numeracy skills below Level 2 (the same level as a good GCSE pass) and would therefore struggle to answer correctly a question such as, ‘A TV has been reduced by 20% and now costs £280. What was the original price?’

How can we ask the UK population to make 30 million individual decisions about their domestic heating systems to meet Net Zero, with this backdrop? The only option that has the capacity to deliver is system-wide delivery, with minimal input needed from individuals. Not everyone has the capacity or frankly interest in spending time fine-tuning heating systems. The academic elite might scorn, but real people need to be at the forefront of our thinking.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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