Can consumers save energy? Results from surveys of consumer adoption and use of low and zero carbon technologies

Caird, Sally; Herring, Horace and Roy, Robin (2007). Can consumers save energy? Results from surveys of consumer adoption and use of low and zero carbon technologies. In: European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Summer Study 2007, 4-5 Jun 2007, La Colle sur Loup, Côte d’Azur, France.


This paper presents results from a UK Open University research project which surveyed consumers’ reasons for adoption – and non-adoption – of domestic energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems – collectively called low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies. Data was gathered during 2006 via an on-line questionnaire with nearly 400 responses, mainly from ‘green’ consumers, supplemented by 83 in-depth telephone interviews. These consumer surveys also identified problems and benefits experienced by adopters of these LZC technologies.
The paper outlines some results of these surveys, for four established energy efficiency measures – loft insulation, condensing boilers, heating controls, and energy-efficient lighting – and for four renewable energy technologies – solar water heating, solar photovoltaics (PV), micro-wind turbines and wood stoves. These consumers typically adopted the energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems to save energy, money and/or the environment, which many considered they achieved despite some rebound effects. The reasons for considering but rejecting these LZC technologies include the familiar cost barriers, but there were also other obstacles that varied according to the product or system concerned. An important finding is that most adopters of renewable energy systems have previously adopted two or more energy efficiency measures. Thus one conclusion is: sell energy efficiency first, then renewables. Whilst in the UK very few people have adopted household renewable energy systems, about a third of the consumers in our on-line survey said that they seriously considered adopting a renewable energy technology, although, only about 20% of these actually did so. 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 pioneer adopters (notably retired couples) have managed to overcome the barriers of cost, time and effort involved in planning, installing and using them.

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