Hard-to-Reach Energy Users
There is a significant percentage of the human population (we estimate over 2/3 of energy users fall into it!) who can be regarded as “hard-to-reach energy users”. These are the people policymakers, utility programme managers and research experts are struggling to engage with – often, for good reason. This very large energy user segment is the focus of this Users TCP Task.
June 2019 to May 2022 (1 year extension to 2023)
New Zealand, Sweden, United States of America
August 2023 to July 2026
New Zealand, Sweden, United States of America
For more information on the Task, please contact Dr Sea Rotmann Sea Rotmann firstname.lastname@example.org
Latest From Hard-to-Reach Energy Users
Recent research from our Social License to Automate and Hard-to-Reach Energy Users Tasks have been published online under the Energy Research & Social Science section of ScienceDirect.
Hard-to-Reach Energy Users Publications
Hard-to-reach energy users: An ex-post cross-country assessment of behavioural-oriented interventions
This paper has been published in ERSS and is co-authored by Luis Mundaca, Sea Rotmann, Kira Ashby, Beth Karlin, Danielle Butler, Miguel Macias Sequeira, Joao Pedro Gouveia, Pedro Palma, Anna Realini, Simone Maggiore and Marielle Feenstra.
Energy efficiency (EE) program administrators and policy makers have long encouraged the adoption of efficient technologies and conservation practices across all energy users and sectors. Energy users who haven’t yet participated in efficiency and conservation programs despite ongoing outreach are often referred to as “Hard-to-Reach” (HTR).
Subtasks & Deliverables
Introduction to the ‘hard-to-reach’ energy users
Many of our behaviour change and demand response interventions concentrate on the uptake of energy-efficient technologies in developed countries and so-called “green consumption” efforts. Much of our focus is on technology choice per se, with a lot less on the cognitive, motivational and contextual factors that are affecting those choices (e.g. Rotmann and Mourik, 2013). Relatively speaking, behavioural-oriented policy initiatives are rather limited, and often confined to experimental settings, and utility-driven programmes (e.g. Rotmann and Ashby, 2019). Our Swedish National Expert (Mundaca et al, 2018) undertook a global review of policy efforts (at the national and city level) addressing low-carbon energy technologies. Results show a clear orientation towards technology market development (mostly subsidies), and market failures (particularly, information asymmetries). In fact, policy efforts addressing behavioural anomalies explicitly, are the exception. This has led to the continued energy efficiency gap – the difference between the cost-minimising level of energy efficiency and the level of energy efficiency actually realised.
In addition, so-called “Behaviour Changers” (those agencies or individuals tasked to change energy user behaviours via policies, programmes or pilots) often have a blind spot when it comes to tackling the most difficult audiences – like HTR energy users. Too often they literally disappear into what can only be called the “too-hard basket”. All up, this has led to continued increases in our energy consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions, with the associated consequences on runaway climate change, ecosystem breakdown, and massive societal inequity.
What defines a “hard-to-reach” energy user?
As there are many different, sometimes conflicting definitions of what constitutes a “hard-to-reach” energy user (see Rotmann et al, 2020), we have co-created this broad working definition as a starting point for our research:
“In this Task, a hard-to-reach energy user is any energy user from the residential and non-residential* sectors, who uses any type of energy or fuel, and who is typically either hard-to-reach physically, underserved**, or hard to engage or motivate in behaviour change, energy efficiency and demand response interventions that are intended to serve our mutual needs***.”
Glossary of terms
* Non-residential sector focuses primarily on the commercial, but does not exclude examples from e.g. the industrial or agricultural sectors
** Underserved energy users are people or populations:
- Who are marginalised or otherwise not served equitably in our society;
- Who do not receive commensurate benefits in return for their ratepayer funding of programmes and services;
- For whom “outcomes represent less than the target population share relative to the total population or…targeted programme impacts are less than those from other programmes on a per participant basis…”;
- Whose “Participation Rate” or “Participant Distribution” dips below a predetermined threshold, calculated as (ibid):
Participation Rate = (Number of programme participants from energy user group) / (Total number in energy user group)
Participant Distribution = (Number of programme participants from energy user group) / (Total number of participants in programmes)
*** Our mutual needs pertains to not just fulfilling e.g. regulatory requirements or government policy directives, but also increasing demand for energy services (e.g. cooling, heating) and the (often only implied) needs of the HTR audience. The audience needs (e.g. equitable access to affordable energy, healthy homes) may sometimes conflict with government or utility needs (e.g. reducing energy use, competition for customers).
What is our shared goal for this Task?
“Our shared goal is to identify, define, and prioritise HTR audiences*; and design, measure and share effective strategies to engage** those audiences to achieve energy, demand response and climate targets*** while meeting access, equity, and energy service**** needs.”
Glossary of terms
* HTR Audience refers mostly to energy users in the residential and non-residential (see HTR definition above) but also includes HTR “Behaviour Changers” and stakeholders.
** Engage audiences includes any strategies intended to either encourage participation in energy programmes or shift energy usage behaviours, such as education, incentives, subsidies, nudging, mass marketing campaigns, peer-to-peer or face-to-face communications etc.
*** Energy, demand response and climate targets can mean energy-savings goals and/or greenhouse gas reduction targets that are set either locally (e.g. by the municipality or a community), statewide or regionally (e.g. by utility regulators), nationally (e.g. by EPA or DOE or an energy ministry), or internationally (e.g. the Paris Accord or EU Directives).
**** Access includes the provision of affordable, secure energy for all. Equity here means expanding all programmes and policies to ensure the inclusion and facilitate the participation of individuals in vulnerable or underserved communities, such as minorities, women, indigenous and low-income people, and formerly incarcerated persons. Energy service refers to the delivered benefits of useful energy consumption, such as heating, refrigeration, lighting, cooking, transportation, etc., as opposed to the simple provision of units of energy as such. Therefore, energy services refer to those functions performed using energy which are means to obtain or facilitate desired end services or states.