, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 149-166

Improving the energy performance of UK households: Results from surveys of consumer adoption and use of low- and zero-carbon technologies

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Abstract

This paper presents results from a UK Open University project which surveyed consumers’ reasons for adoption, and non-adoption, of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems—collectively called low- and zero-carbon technologies—and their experiences of using these technologies. Data were gathered during 2006 via an online questionnaire with nearly 400 responses, plus 111 in-depth telephone interviews. The respondents were mainly environmentally concerned, ‘green’ consumers and therefore these are purposive rather than representative surveys. The paper outlines results for four energy efficiency measures (loft insulation, condensing boilers, heating controls and energy-efficient lighting) and four household renewables (solar thermal water heating, solar photovoltaics, micro-wind turbines and wood-burning stoves). These green consumers typically adopted these technologies to save energy, money and/or the environment, which many considered they achieved despite rebound effects. The reasons for considering but rejecting these technologies include the familiar price barriers, but there were also other obstacles that varied according to the technology concerned. Nearly a third of the surveyed consumers had adopted household renewables, over half of which were wood stoves and 10% solar thermal water heating systems. Most adopters of renewables had previously installed several energy efficiency measures, but only a fifth of those who seriously considered renewables actually installed a system. This suggests sell energy efficiency first, then renewables. There seems to be considerable interest in household renewables in the UK, especially among older, middle-class green consumers, but so far only relatively few pioneers have managed to overcome the barriers to adoption.