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Customer Panel highlights: Homeowners prioritise heating system ‘reliability’, and respond positively to energy storage

In my last blog I introduced the Delta-ee Customer Panela brand new resource made up of 1,000 UK homeowners. Our panellists will participate in numerous exercises throughout the year, enabling us to explore in detail customer attitudes to heat, energy, technologies, new business models, to name a few the key uses.

In this post I share some interesting findings from our first research piece with the panel and look specifically at what our participants say about the opportunity for energy storage.

First and foremost, customers want a heating system that they can depend on

The results from our initial on-line survey are in, and the highlights below are based on the response of the full 1,000-strong sample:

  • Reliability is king: When it comes to what customers want out of their heating systems, ‘reliability’ tops all other elements – including ‘controllability’, ‘comfort’ and ‘cost’;
  • There is untapped value in the servicing market: Perhaps in order to guarantee this reliability we found that customers who do not currently have an aftersales contract for their heating system (ie the majority of the market) are willing to pay between £100-300 per year for this cover – if industry can effectively reach out to them; &
  • Engagement with renewables is falling: the proportion of homeowners likely to invest in renewable technologies has dropped significantly (compared with 2015; looking over the next 1, 3 and 5 years) – implying that the 2017 overhaul of the Renewable Heat Incentive will need to be a drastic one if it is to lead to any measurable increase in the levels of uptake.

Batteries edging ahead in the battle between energy storage technologies

One key goal of the Panel is to explore how customers view new and emerging technologies, and to ‘profile’ which kinds of customers will be most receptive to the different kinds, including: smart heating controls, ‘connected’ boilers, efficient electric heaters, and energy storage systems.

Below is how householders with solar PV responded to the concept of adding storage capacity.

Source: Delta-ee Heat Insight Service, 2016.

The results clearly show that retrofitting a storage battery has a considerable edge over hot water storage (e.g. a power diverter and/or hot water cylinder), in terms of the level of appeal to current PV users. Understandable given the more obvious connection between PV and electricity storage.

In addition, in light the level of interest in battery storage from the panellists who currently do not have solar PV installed, there is certainly potential for this technology to drive uptake of PV in the subsidy-less future through PV + battery solutions.

Customers could react differently when the time comes to part with their hard-earned cash of course, previous research tells us they are price sensitive – and the equipment costs of thermal storage are usually around 10x less than for batteries. Ultimately, the storage industry will need to establish the cost customers are willing to pay to maximise their self-consumption and what rate of return makes for a compelling proposition.

This is a question we will be addressing as our research develops throughout the year and we look use our customer panel to build an increasingly detailed picture of how companies can make their offerings stand out from the crowd.

Keep an eye out for the next blog in our series of customer panel insights – which will focus on the key findings from our upcoming phase of in-depth interviews with homeowners.

Access to the Delta-ee Customer Panel is available through an annual subscription to the Delta-ee Heat Insight Service (HIS). To learn the other benefits of the HIS click here, and a brochure giving more detail on the structure and programme for the customer panel is available here.

The panel can also be accessed for bespoke consultancy.

Feel free to get in touch with me for all relevant enquiries: (Heat Insight Service manager); +44(0)131 625 1003.

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