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The toughest behaviour
change challenge: Improving
Energy Efficiency in the PRS
Aimee Ambrose
Sheffield Hallam
University
...
Why am I talking about this?
• Because more people die than need to due
to inefficient, cold housing (WHO, 2011).
• especi...
Why am I talking about this?
• Yet....private landlords are the most averse
to making such improvements (Ambrose, 2015).
•...
Avoidable
deaths
Wasting
carbon
What's the problem?
Affecting
more of
us
What's the problem?
PRS: poorest quality least
energy efficient dwellings in UK
and NZ (and elsewhere!)
Consequences: for ...
The research
The research
• Understanding how landlords approach
decisions about EE investment
• Not a comparative study....
• Together...
Why did I do it, there?
• High levels of fuel poverty
• Old, cold housing
• Low expectations of warmth
Hypotheses
Principal-agent.....
Tenants (principals) are poorly informed about
EE and unlikely to pay a premium for it. Kn...
Principal-agent: a brief critique
• Oversimplifies and
• ...assumes economic rationality
• Paints tenants as ignorant and
...
What did I find?
• Conformity (but complexity) in Rotherham
Trust in policies and
initiatives. What’s in it
for them?
Fact...
What did I find?
• Meanwhile 11,000 miles south in Dunedin:
• 70% landlords positive about improving
thermal performance a...
Types of landlord
Non-
joiners
Passive
actors
Active
Pro-
active
Non-joiners (Rotherham)
• Let to low income groups
• Litt...
Why are landlords more active?
Consumer
pressure
Changing
expectations
Tolerance
waning
Why are tenants more aware?
Media
Activism
Price
Winners/losers
BUT...
• consumer pressure not
as strong at low-end
• stand to gain the most
from warmer homes
• but can't ...
Beyond principal-agent?
• Not universally applicable...
• Principals can be agents of change
• ...even in a strong market
...
Take away messages
No universal
explanation
Not just
about
economics
Context is
critical
Tenants can
be powerful
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The toughest behaviour change challenge in energy efficiency

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Dr Aimee Ambrose, IEA DSM Task 24 UK expert, gave this fascinating presentation on principal agent issues in private sector landlords in New Zealand vs the UK

Published in: Science
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The toughest behaviour change challenge in energy efficiency

  1. 1. The toughest behaviour change challenge: Improving Energy Efficiency in the PRS Aimee Ambrose Sheffield Hallam University Insights from the UK and NZ
  2. 2. Why am I talking about this? • Because more people die than need to due to inefficient, cold housing (WHO, 2011). • especially in Ireland...second highest levels in Europe (Healy 2003; IPH 2015) • Affects low income PRS households more (Healy 2003; Healy and Clinch, 2004). • Energy efficiency upgrades improve health, wellbeing and prosperity and reduce carbon (Taske et al, 2005, Thomson et al, 2009, Gibson, 2011)
  3. 3. Why am I talking about this? • Yet....private landlords are the most averse to making such improvements (Ambrose, 2015). • Enabling energy efficiency upgrades in the PRS is a priority • and relies on cracking the toughest behaviour change conundrum: the landlord-tenant problem.....
  4. 4. Avoidable deaths Wasting carbon What's the problem? Affecting more of us
  5. 5. What's the problem? PRS: poorest quality least energy efficient dwellings in UK and NZ (and elsewhere!) Consequences: for HWB, prosperity and carbon Can cost lives! Why can't we sort it? Landlords (largely) outside of regulation or it is not enforced Why not regulate for EE then? F-E-A-R! Reliance on the sector to provide housing
  6. 6. The research
  7. 7. The research • Understanding how landlords approach decisions about EE investment • Not a comparative study.... • Together they help us appreciate the importance of context and culture... 30 in-depth interviews with many different landlords, letting agents and local stakeholders
  8. 8. Why did I do it, there? • High levels of fuel poverty • Old, cold housing • Low expectations of warmth
  9. 9. Hypotheses Principal-agent..... Tenants (principals) are poorly informed about EE and unlikely to pay a premium for it. Knowing this, the landlord (agent) is unwilling to invest in EE as they will not recoup the cost.
  10. 10. Principal-agent: a brief critique • Oversimplifies and • ...assumes economic rationality • Paints tenants as ignorant and impotent despite heterogeneity • Valid across different contexts?
  11. 11. What did I find? • Conformity (but complexity) in Rotherham Trust in policies and initiatives. What’s in it for them? Factors shaping landlords’ decision re: investment in EE Level of consumer pressure Financial capacity to invest small or large portfolio Legal and regulatory requirements Availability of direct financial incentives Housing market factors Levels of knowledge and availability of info Cultural and contextual factors Stability in the rental market High turnoverLevel of demand
  12. 12. What did I find? • Meanwhile 11,000 miles south in Dunedin: • 70% landlords positive about improving thermal performance and EE
  13. 13. Types of landlord Non- joiners Passive actors Active Pro- active Non-joiners (Rotherham) • Let to low income groups • Little or no interest in EE • Capital expenditure to a minimum. • Meeting a need for low cost housing. Passive actors (Rotherham) • Let to low income groups • Some interest in EE but passive in pursuit • Believe they will not recoup costs Active (Dunedin) • Let to a variety of tenants • Accept the need for EE and provide basic measures • Feel that tenants expect insulation and an affordable heat source, as standard • Feel they can charge a small premium for these features • More innovative measures ruled out on cost grounds and are not felt to be expected by tenants. Pro-active • Avoid low income groups and younger students. • Accept benefits of wide range of measures and install them
  14. 14. Why are landlords more active? Consumer pressure Changing expectations Tolerance waning
  15. 15. Why are tenants more aware? Media Activism Price
  16. 16. Winners/losers BUT... • consumer pressure not as strong at low-end • stand to gain the most from warmer homes • but can't afford them?
  17. 17. Beyond principal-agent? • Not universally applicable... • Principals can be agents of change • ...even in a strong market • EE may be poorly understood but cold homes, unaffordable to heat are not
  18. 18. Take away messages No universal explanation Not just about economics Context is critical Tenants can be powerful

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