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Consumer Response and Behaviour - What people need and do that involves heat energy: Findings from qualitative research


Citation Energy Endeavours Consortium Consumer Response and Behaviour - What people need and do that involves heat energy: Findings from qualitative research, ETI, 2014. https://doi.org/10.5286/UKERC.EDC.000529.
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Author(s) Energy Endeavours Consortium
Project partner(s) PRP Architects Limited, UCL Energy Institute, Frontier Economics, The Technology Partnership, The Peabody Trust, National Centre for Social Research, Hitachi Europe
Publisher ETI
DOI https://doi.org/10.5286/UKERC.EDC.000529
Download SSH_SS1501_14.pdf document type
Associated Project(s) ETI-SS1501: Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) Programme - Consumer Behaviour Study
Associated Dataset(s) No associated datasets
Abstract The delivery of consumer energy requirements is a key focus of the Smart Systems and Heat Programme. The Consumer Response and Behavior Project will identify consumer requirements and predict consumer response to Smart Energy System proposals, providing a consumer focus for the other Work Areas. This project involved thousands of respondents providing insight into consumer requirements for heat and energy services, both now and in the future. Particular focus was given to identifying the behaviour that leads people to consume energy - in particular heat and hot water. This £3m project was led by PRP Architects, experts in the built environment. It involved a consortium of academia and industry - UCL Energy Institute, Frontier Economics, The Technology Partnership, The Peabody Trust, National Centre for Social Research and Hitachi Europe

This report presents insights developed through a multi-faceted project of qualitative consumer research, involving a diverse sample of 186 domestic consumers in the UK. The sample was purposively selected to represent the diversity of the general population in relation to key characteristics such as household composition, property type, income and heating type. Participants took part in a range of sequenced activities. Interactive workshops were designed to map the full range of heat energy needs and behaviours that exist in the general population. To understand these in more detail and in-situ, a subsequent longitudinal element of the study involved tracking the heat energy needs and behaviour among a cohort of 30 of the workshops’ participants over the course of a full year.

The deliverable also includes the 8 Case Studies as part of the supporting material for the qualitative research.

Key insights from the research are:
  • People have wide-ranging needs that influence how they use heat energy in the home. But it appears that only a relatively small sub-set of these needs drive day-to-day, routine behaviours
  • The needs that drive day-to-day, routine behaviours exist along a continuum of priority:some are fundamental needs, while other more peripheral and better described as ‘wants’. These peripheral needs only come into focus and become an influence on behaviour as people’s core needs are met sufficiently
  • It is not only needs, however, that affect what people actually do. A dynamic and interacting set of household-level factors, encompassing people, property and systemaffect how and to what extent people are able to meet these needs, and which needs come into focus and influence behaviour
  • People adopt complex control strategies to meet their needs. Some are highly sophisticated and considered, while others may be rudimentary and reflexive. They are also highly variable, given that people are working around a variable mix of people/property/system factors.
  • What appears to remain constant across the population is that control strategies enable people to meet the aims (or fundamental needs) of comfort and health, while being prepared or required to make trade-offs in relation to the means (more peripheral needs, such as cost and convenience) by which they get there.
  • People are extraordinarily adaptable yet highly resistant to change once they have developed a strategy that allows them to meet their basic health and comfort needs. They tend to make adaptations to their energy systems onlywhen there is a disruption to their normal flow of life that ‘pushes’ them to change.
This report was prepared for the ETI by the consortium that delivered the project in 2013 and whose contents may be out of date and may not represent current thinking.