Exploring Consumer Insights: awareness, opinion and willingness to use low-carbon liquid fuels in Belgium

As the energy market continues to evolve, the need for consumer insights becomes increasingly critical. To address this, our Belgian member, in4fuels, embarked on a comprehensive "Fuels of the Future Survey." This online survey assessed heating oil users' knowledge, willingness, and price sensitivity regarding new generation fuels (low-carbon liquid fuels). With 5,263 participants, this survey broadly represents Belgian heating oil users, providing valuable insights into their attitudes towards cleaner energy options. Here, we share five key findings from the survey.

1. Cost is the dominant factor in heating choices

Unsurprisingly, the survey revealed that price and the lowest possible energy cost remain decisive factors regarding heating choices. The cost of consumption and maintenance are at the top of the list of considerations, followed by reliability, convenience, and sustainability. While low-carbon liquid fuels emit less CO2 and are thus better for the environment, this environmental benefit alone is not a decisive factor for most respondents. Nonetheless, many heating oil users expressed a positive attitude towards more sustainable fuel options and are open to using them in the future.

2. Limited knowledge of low-carbon liquid fuels

A significant finding from the survey is the limited knowledge about low-carbon liquid fuels among respondents. A substantial 60% of participants were unaware of any low-carbon liquid fuel. Among those with some knowledge, e-fuels were the most recognised, with 29% awareness. In contrast, HVO, FAME, and R33 (a blend of 33% renewable fuel and 67% conventional heating oil) had remarkably low recognition. Interestingly, those with greater knowledge about cleaner fuels were more likely to shift from a neutral to a positive viewpoint regarding their use.

3. High willingness to switch to cleaner fuels

The survey revealed a promising trend: nearly 70% of respondents indicated that they are either certain or more likely to switch to cleaner fuels. If low-carbon liquid fuels were to enter the market at an acceptable price, nearly half of the respondents would switch immediately. However, 38% stated they would not consider switching until 2030. This indicates a substantial potential market for low-carbon liquid fuels, provided they are competitively priced.

4. Overcoming initial resistance to switching

Initially, only 3% of respondents were not open to switching to low-carbon liquid fuels. However, in4fuels observed a significant change when they explained that existing heating oil boilers could use low-carbon liquid fuels without any modifications or additional investments. After this clarification, 72% of those who were initially resistant said they would reconsider switching. This highlights the importance of educating consumers about the compatibility and ease of transition to low-carbon liquid fuels.

5. Price sensitivity influences willingness to switch

The survey underscored the clear price sensitivity among consumers: any increase in cost inhibits their willingness to switch to low-carbon liquid fuels.

  • 16% of respondents are willing to use low-carbon liquid fuels regardless of the additional cost.
  • 19% are neutral regarding price.
  • 31% are open to switching but base their decision on the price difference.
  • 34% prefer not to switch if there is any price increase.

An additional cost of 10% is acceptable to the majority (78%) of respondents. However, acceptance drops sharply above a 20% increase, with only 18% remaining willing to switch. A mere 3% are prepared to pay up to 30% more or higher.

The "Fuels of the Future Survey" by in4fuels provides crucial insights into Belgian heating oil users' perspectives on low-carbon liquid fuels. While price remains a significant factor, consumers are strongly willing to switch to cleaner fuels, provided they are affordable and require no additional investments. Increasing awareness and education about low-carbon liquid fuels can enhance acceptance and adoption. As the energy market shifts towards sustainability, these insights are invaluable for shaping future policies and market strategies.