Reducing energy consumption is one of the biggest challenges we face in the UK today. In order to tackle CO2 emissions and ensure both the security and affordability of supply, the Government has made energy demand reduction a policy priority.
For consumers, rising energy prices and accessing affordable energy are growing concerns. Although energy consumption is a widely-shared worry, most people regard it as a private matter. Addressing concerns about energy at an individual level is important, but we know little about the potential for community-level initiatives to drive positive change. What if energy became a public issue that people talked about with friends and neighbours?
In order to use energy more efficiently, people need relevant knowledge of what they should do and how they can do it. The RECCKN project has compared how people find out about energy issues, the barriers to the spread of energy knowledge and awareness, and how this knowledge might be more effectively shared in different types of communities. We have found that peer networks in local areas - what we call 'community knowledge networks' - can enable the sharing of information and expertise, ultimately leading to the spread of useful knowledge about using energy more efficiently.
The overarching finding of this research is that making energy 'discussable' is an effective, low-tech and low-cost way to help people make better choices about how they use and conserve energy. Ultimately, it should lead to a reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions.