Climate Change: the citizen's agenda Evidence to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Roy, Robin and Caird, Sally (2007). Climate Change: the citizen's agenda Evidence to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. The Stationery Office, London, UK.



i). This paper summarises some results of research by the Open University of the key influences on the adoption – and non-adoption – by mainly environmentally-concerned UK citizens of low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies. These include energy efficiency measures (such as loft insulation, condensing boilers and compact fluorescent lamps covered by the Energy Efficiency Commitment) and micro-generation energy technologies (such as solar water heating, photovoltaics and micro-wind turbines included in the DTI's Clear Skies scheme and Low Carbon Buildings Programme). The research also includes the benefits and problems experienced by the citizens who adopted these LZC technologies, plus ideas and policies for overcoming the barriers to their adoption and their effective use in reducing carbon emissions.
The tables in the paper show that each LZC technology has different drivers, barriers, benefits and problems and hence ideas and policies for improvements, but there are some common factors that affect the different technologies.

ii) The main driver for citizen adoption of LZC technologies is reducing fuel bills and/or saving energy in the context of rising fuel prices. Another key driver for adoption of LZC technologies is environmental concern (esp. climate change and nature conservation), at least for the mainly 'greener' citizens we surveyed.

iii) The barriers to adoption vary widely depending on the technology concerned and go beyond the well-known financial issues. Examples of significant barriers to the adoption of energy efficiency measures include peoples' concerns about irritant fibres in loft insulation materials, needing to clear the loft, and loss of loft storage space when installing the recommended thickness of insulation; the reputation of condensing boilers among installers and consumers for unreliability and shorter life; and the size and perceived ugliness of compact fluorescent lamps, and a failure to communicate improvements in CFL design and technology since their introduction. However, even for environmentally concerned citizens, capital cost is a major barrier to adoption of micro-generation technologies, together with the uncertain performance and reliability of innovative technologies.

iv) The benefits of insulation are reported (even by non fuel-poor citizens) largely in terms of warmer homes rather than in reduced energy consumption, i.e. the 'rebound effect' of insulation could be higher than the figure assumed for the Energy Efficiency Commitment. In contrast, improved heating controls when used properly and condensing boilers appear to have little rebound effect and so should help more directly to reduce carbon emissions. Energy efficient lighting appears to involve a relatively small rebound effect, as some users choose to leave CFLs switched on longer and/or may install additional CFL lighting.

(v) The micro-generation technologies as well as reducing carbon emissions, offer citizens who can afford to install them (for whom grants were only a relatively minor driver) great pleasure in using renewable energy as well as focusing their attention on saving energy.

vi) To encourage the widespread adoption and effective use of these LZC technologies requires different actions and policies tailored to the specific technologies: e.g. allowing use of eco-friendly materials in subsidised loft insulation schemes; designing and installing user-friendly controls that provide feedback on energy used or saved; energy companies offering financing packages to install micro-generation systems; and regulations and standards guaranteeing the performance, reliability and durability of micro-generation technologies.

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