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Social Networks and Energy Efficiency by Megan McMichael


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A presentation at the BSA Climate Change Study Group event, “Energy, Climate and Society: Insights from Early Career Researchers” held on Thursday, 18 April 2013 at the University of Westminster.

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Social Networks and Energy Efficiency by Megan McMichael

  1. 1. Social networks &energy efficiencySocial networks & adoption of householdenergy efficiency innovations in 3 case studycommunitiesDr Megan McMichaelUCL Energy Institute
  2. 2. Background• PhD title–“Social capital and the diffusion of energy-reducing innovations in UKhouseholds” (April 2011)•Reasons for research–29% reduction in CO2 emissions from domestic sector by 2020–Common belief that, inter alia, lack of knowledge is responsible forslow change• Literature–Diffusion of innovations (adoption vs. non-adoption)–Social capital (social networks / word of mouth)–Human dimensions of household energy use2
  3. 3. Case studies• Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) community trials– Part of the Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP)– Energy efficiency/smart meter interventions took place 2007-2009– 3 villages/small town (one in each: England, Wales, & Scotland)• The research– Took place during end of EDRP trials:• Questionnaires distributed in summer 2009• Focus groups held in Autumn / Winter 2009/2010– Main research question examined relationship between information-seeking(from someone the respondent knew) & adopting an energy efficiencyinnovation– Innovations were grouped into 4 categories: Insulation & draught-proofing;Visual displays of energy use (e.g. smart meters); Appliances, heating &lighting; Behavioural changes3
  4. 4. Summary of findings• Respondents indicated they would be just as likely to ask someone they knowfor information on energy efficiency as use media/organisations (i.e. 1/3 splitbetween the three choices).4• Significant relationships between information-seeking & adoption … but onlyfor certain innovations (e.g. smart meters), and in certain communities• Roughly half of the people respondents sought information from were fromwithin the same community, but this was not significantly related to adoption• For some innovations, respondents were more likely to adopt if they spoke tomore people• Respondents in one community strongly preferred seeking information fromstrong ties (family, friends); respondents in the other two communities soughtinformation from both strong and weak ties (acquaintances, neighbours,colleagues)
  5. 5. Policy implications• Variations mean that „blanket‟ approaches are not as effective as tailoredapproaches• Pre-assessment• Tailoring approaches could be guided by the Energy Efficiency ResourceGenerator• Socio-demographics should be examined• Policies should encourage the use of existing social networks, who can act as„intermediaries‟, where possible.• „Intermediaries‟ need more time than may be anticipated to establish projectsand disseminate a message.• People may seek more information from social networks on innovations whichare not well-understood5
  6. 6. Thank you!Megan McMichaelUCL Energy