NES2 – Lord Deben: Important to understand motivations behind energy use

November 30, 2015

INES2 participants, fuel poverty, climate change, energy usen the first eight months of 2015, Sustainable Homes carried out meter readings on over 500 homes across the country as part of the National Energy Study 2 to find out more about energy use in the home, and to answer some of the questions raised during the first National Energy Study. This series of blogs looks at the key findings and some of the issues raised.

It is sometimes easy to think of climate change as being abstract, the province of global leaders, summits and think tanks. But tackling this massive challenge requires us to act on all fronts and on all scales – not least in the UK’s 27 million homes.

Tackling the problem of reducing domestic energy use is a huge and complex task. It is all too often dominated by the single issue of fuel poverty – but the truth is that, in reality, fuel poverty is only a small part of the problem. We know a great deal about how energy is used, and how it is possible to cut down this use. But we understand much less about what motivates people so they take action to reduce their energy demands.

If we view the task of reducing energy consumption as being purely based on cost we are missing a trick.

It might appear that motivating people to cut their fuel bills is the most obvious solution. What better motivator could we hope for? It is certainly more immediate and more personal than the distant notions that we ought to be producing less carbon dioxide and reducing climate change; it also avoids the scientific terms that make some people’s eyes glaze over.

But as previous studies have found, money is not always the best motivator. People are more likely to change long-standing habits if they know others are using less, or if they receive feedback which helps them to feel good about themselves.

Programmes of improvements for housing stock are often led by SAP (the Standard Assessment Procedure, used to assess the energy rating of homes). As this is directed at buildings rather than their users, some significant issues can be missed, such as hot water use, draughts and residents’ understanding of their heating controls.

As we push for new and existing homes to be more energy efficient it’s important that we understand the complex motivations behind energy use and behaviour change.

If we are to win the battle for energy efficiency, we need to understand how people actually behave in their homes – and the reasons behind it. Only by doing so can we ensure that the potential of this major contribution to fighting both climate change and fuel poverty is fully realised.  I very much commend and support this research

       Lord Deben, Chair, Committee on Climate Change


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To read the full report, click here.

To download the NES 1 report, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

For part 2 in this blog series, click here


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Daniel Navarro