UK (Aston University) Aston University professor contributes to Commons report on Government’s decarbonisation plans

  • Professor Tim Baines gave key evidence on outcome-based models for driving clean technology adoption
  • The aim is to help companies adopt innovative ‘as-a-service’ models
  • It would help reduce risks for consumers and companies alike.

Aston Business School’s Professor Tim Baines has given evidence to a high-profile House of Commons report on the Government’s plans for decarbonising the energy sector by 2035.

Professor Baines was drawing attention to his research into new, ‘outcome-based’ models for businesses. He believes they will be vital to decarbonisation efforts, since if adopted by companies they would increase the take-up of clean technologies such as heat pumps, hydrogen boilers and carbon neutral vehicles.

That speedy take-up will be needed if the Government is to meet its 2035 deadline. In a generally critical final report, Committee chair Dame Meg Hillier MP called for the executive to address the ‘information vacuum’  in areas such as energy efficiency, investment, and the cost of transition to the public, describing the UK as ‘living on borrowed time’.

Professor Baines and colleagues at the Advanced Services Group are currently helping companies in the UK and internationally to adopt this new model, which features several contracted partners working towards an end result. Sometimes called ‘as-a-service’ business models, the focus is on the service ultimately provided to the end user.

For example, the goal for a homeowner might be to have a suitably warm home.  Instead of buying a heat pump themselves, a homeowner might contract with a provider for the outcome, or service, of a ‘warm home’, with an energy company agreeing to provide that by contracting a heat pump from the manufacturer. The manufacturer might then be responsible for installation, safety and maintenance, and if the pump doesn’t keep the house warm enough the consumer will be entitled to withhold payment.

All of this would enable the latest technology to be used in the field, with lower risk to both the consumer and the companies involved. It’s a business model that is proving successful in other industries, such as aerospace and road transport.

In his written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry, which can be seen in the final report, Professor Baines said:

“This incentivises providers, be they manufacturers, technology integrators, distributers or installers, to find the most efficient, effective technology to do the job.

“This is not just about the product’s energy usage but also about how materials are used to make, maintain and repair it, how long it lasts, and what happens to it when it has finished its useful life in a particular installation.”

It’s still early days for the outcome-based business model, but more data is on the way.

Professor Baines says:

“We are working on a large research project, funded by the ESRC, that will measure how these business models can potentially impact net zero and productivity in the UK.

“In a years’ time, we’ll have valuable data that we think will start to really change the debate around how companies and consumers in Britain can move forward on this.”