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Getting the energy message

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It is interesting but disappointing to find that households that consider themselves green do not use less domestic energy.

Thinking ‘green’ and being pro-environment does not necessarily reduce domestic energy usage. That is the finding of researchers from the James Hutton Institute who revealed income was the main driver behind domestic energy use: richer households use more energy.

The team from the James Hutton Institute has led the European research project GILDED (Governance, Infrastructure, Lifestyle Dynamics and Energy Demand), which spent three-years studying determinants of household energy demand across five case-study areas, each consisting of a city and its rural hinterland. The other partners are the universities of Groningen and South Bohemia, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Sociology).

In Scotland Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire was the focus of the research. The study team conducted a large-scale survey on domestic energy consumption and ran an initiative providing householders with information about energy conservation and asking them to commit to reducing theirs.

They found that although there is a broad acceptance of the need to conserve energy there is a less complete, albeit widespread, acceptance of the scientific consensus that greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels for energy are the major factor in climate change. They also found a tendency for people to see the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as lying elsewhere, often with governments. People were often willing to accept government regulation as long as it was seen as fair.
The research revealed that it was probably more effective to stress the need to conserve resources and avoid waste rather than stressing the climate connection, both because there is significant scepticism about climate change science and because this taps into values of thrift and personal responsibility.

Stressing the financial advantages of energy conservation is also a feasible approach, but of course money saved on heating by improving insulation, for example, may be used to increase energy use on travel or electrical appliances.

Dr Nick Gotts, leader of the project said: “It is interesting but disappointing to find that households that consider themselves green do not use less domestic energy. We urgently need ways to encourage people to install efficient heating systems and insulation, and insist on low-energy appliances.”

One of the outcomes of the project is a highly innovative “carbon calculator” for households. It is the first product of its type devised for such a wide range of countries and will be made more widely available.

Notes to editors

The European Commission Framework Seven funded project GILDED ran from December 2008 to April 2012. It studied five case-study areas, each consisting of a city and its rural hinterland:

  • Scotland: Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
  • The Netherlands: Assen and Assen Municipality
  • Germany: Potsdam and BrandenburgThe Czech Republic: České Budějovice and Budějoviceshire
  • Hungary: Debrecen and Hajdú-Bihar County

The final conference of the GILDED research project will take place with an invited audience at the Club University Foundation, Brussels, on Thursday 19 April.

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Printed from /news/getting-energy-message on 25/02/24 12:58:49 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.