Whole Person - Whole Place energy solutions for net-zero neighbourhoods

The UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has argued that a step change is needed in decarbonising heat and reducing demand in the UK building stock. However, current approaches to the energy transition in the UK are not working.

Domestic energy policy is currently governed through a mix of retail market incentives, and government grants for energy efficiency retrofit and low carbon heat. This isolates energy policy from the everyday decisions people make about their homes; decisions such as when to renovate and where to access finance.

This project seeks to develop ‘Whole Person – Whole Place’ energy solutions that can leverage the billions of pounds that people already spend on home improvements to achieve energy efficiency. The project will ask how this change be achieved through coordinated action at the local-level, and with strong connections to national government.

Research Approach

The research departs from the hypothesis that ‘able to pay’ building owners will undertake more energy efficiency and low carbon heat retrofits if energy policy responds to local context and building owners’ personal circumstances, than if energy policy addresses energy consumers as homogeneous, economically rational, utility maximisers.

In order to test this hypothesis, the project will embed researchers in three communities developing new retrofit proposals – Leeds, Brighton & Hove, and Glasgow City. The researchers will undertake semi-structured interviews with policy informants and households, and collect data about place and social relations.

The findings from these tasks will be incorporated into a realist evaluation framework, which assumes that conditions such as place, demographic and context matter to whether a policy or social programme works or not, they focus on what works, for whom and why.

The project will then seek to co-design and develop new policy through collaboration and innovation workshops, and public perception work.

Impact & Outreach

The project aims to provide the foundations for a new model for energy transitions for low carbon heat and energy efficiency that can be adopted UK wide.

The project findings will be communicated through a series of briefings, blogs and policy engagement events, co-organised with the Institute for Public Policy Research. The researchers will also submit academic interventions in leading journals in the field.

Further Information

This project brings together researchers from the University of Leeds, Strathclyde Business School, and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. The SPRU team includes Drs Marie Claire Brisbois and Donal Brown.

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).