Consumer adoption and use of household renewable energy technologies

Caird, Sally; Roy, Robin; Potter, Stephen and Herring, Horace (2007). Consumer adoption and use of household renewable energy technologies. DIG Report 10; Design Innovation Group, The Open University.




Household adoption of low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies is a key element of the UK Government’s energy and climate strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of homes, which in 2005 were directly responsible for 28% of total UK carbon dioxide emissions (DTI, 2005). However, despite UK government support for renewable energy technologies and microgeneration (the small scale production of heat and/or electricity from a low carbon source), through grant schemes, such as the Clear Skies and Low Carbon Buildings Programme, household adoption of technologies, such as solar thermal water heating, solar photovoltaics (PV) and biomass heating systems, microwind, microchip and heat pumps, has been slow. There is therefore significant potential for market growth and carbon saving if the barriers to widespread consumer adoption of microgeneration and renewable energy technologies can be overcome.

This report gives the results of a large study carried out by the Design Innovation Group at the Open University (OU) in collaboration with the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST), that aimed to investigate in detail the drivers and barriers underlying UK householders’ decisions to adopt or decide against adopting selected renewable energy technologies (solar thermal water heating, solar photovoltaics (PV), microwind turbines and wood-burning stoves), and their experiences and use of the systems once installed. Data was gathered during 2006 via an online questionnaire linked to the websites of the Energy Saving Trust (EST) and a BBC/OU television series on climate change, which produced nearly 400 responses. We also gathered respondents’ ideas for improving the renewable energy systems. The data was supplemented by the results of in-depth telephone interviews with householders. The data on household adoption of renewable energy technologies presented in this report form part of a larger project entitled ‘People-centred ecodesign’.

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