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New Technology in a Marginalised Community: Exploring Energy Innovation in the South Wales Valleys


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Presentation at BSA annual conference

Published in: Environment
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New Technology in a Marginalised Community: Exploring Energy Innovation in the South Wales Valleys

  1. 1. New Technology in a Marginalised Community: Exploring Energy Innovation in the South Wales Valleys Fiona Shirani Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences Chris Groves, Karen Henwood, Erin Roberts, Nick Pidgeon BSA 2018
  2. 2. • Energy Trilemma • How do people relate to energy in their everyday lives? • How do people experience living alongside innovative technical developments? • Issues for community-level schemes • How do smart technology elements impact on people’s interest and enthusiasm? Contextual Overview
  3. 3. Literature • Smart technology as a ‘fait accompli’ (Strengers, 2016) • Empowering consumers and addressing fuel poverty (OFGEM 2017; DECC 2015; Welsh Government, 2016) • Public concerns about loss of control and unauthorised access to data (Balta-Ozkan et al., 2013; Ballo, 2015) • Smart associated with meanings of cleverness and neatness (Gram-Hansen and Darby, 2018) • Who is smart technology for?
  4. 4. FLEXIS • FLEXIS social science work streams: • WS1 – Flexible systems and expert visions • WS2 – System change and everyday life • WS3 – Communities, energy controversies and risk governance • Under WS2, semi-structured interviews conducted with 23 residents of Caerau, site of a proposed minewater heating scheme. • Study will be qualitative longitudinal and involve creative methods
  5. 5. • Ex-mining community (four local collieries closed 1977-1985) • Population of around 4000 across 1850 homes • High levels of child poverty, unemployment and ill-health. Fuel poverty also an issue • One of the most deprived wards in Wales Caerau
  6. 6. Minewater • Water in disused mineworkings as a potential geothermal source of energy • Heat extracted from water and used to heat local homes via existing radiator system and heat pump • Alterations to housing stock to improve efficiency • Potential installation of ‘smart energy management platforms’ in residents homes
  7. 7. • Main interest in reducing energy bills • Community getting something back from the mines • Positive for community identity • Concerns about security and safety • Concerns about damage to the landscape • Scepticism about technology (including smart management system) • Longer-term benefits for future generations Views of the development
  8. 8. • Helping to keep track of energy use and budget. Some similarity to prepayment meters • Can be alarming in making energy use visible “So everybody I’ve asked who have got it, oh when they had it first great, oh I know exactly what I am using, and I find out that then they become paranoid about what they’re using you know they run around the house looking for a light bulb on now, why am I burning that. You know so I don’t know, I’ll give that a miss at the moment as well, if you don’t mind.” (Len) Smart technology
  9. 9. Smart technology • Unhelpful for people who already have to pay close attention to energy use “They do go on about this smart meter, but anybody with an ounce of common sense won’t use anything they don’t want to use. You know, and we can put it on your phone so it comes, comes on when you come in from shopping. Why? You can switch it on yourself … It’s not going to save me money. Plus the fact you’re being charged for the installation of it. That goes on your bill as well. They think, they think people are stupid … Thick, dumb, I don’t know, or, is it, they’re spraying something in the air today? Because I’m a grown, I know how to do all that. You know, I won’t let things run over time. I won’t leave things on overnight. I roughly know the cost of it, and the ones I’ve seen, the needle’s going up like that. All the time. So I don’t want to be reminded how much I’m using. I’m quite good at cutting back.” (Terry)
  10. 10. • Who is it for? • Enthusiasm from younger people: Oh that’s cool. I’d like that … I think younger people more than older people, because I think older people you see them with their little phones and they’re not too keen on technology but then younger people I think they’d love it. (Leanne) • Less useful for people who are not out at work: PAUL: If people are working it would be good wouldn’t it, because like, hour before you come home you can turn the heating on. In the winter. So you’re not wasting, you haven’t got to have it on all the time. DAWN: We’re usually in the house, so it don’t make a difference to us, it wouldn’t, for that side of it like • More scepticism amongst older people • Potential benefits to those with limited mobility Smart technology
  11. 11. Summary • Original scheme with many potential benefits for the community • Main concern for residents is reducing energy costs • Scepticism that smart technology can help to reduce costs, although can improve convenience • Implications for wider technical rollout