The motivation for this new work comes from five directions:
1) To build on IEA DSM Task 24 behaviour change expertise and global expert network.
Research Question: How can the Toolbox for Behaviour Changers developed by Task 24 be used to support better interventions targeted at HTR energy users?
Answer: Yes, clearly. We have since further developed and field-tested the Building Blocks of Behaviour Change Framework (Karlin et al, 2021) and Behaviour Changer Framework 2.0 (Rotmann & Weber, forthcoming).
2) To explore the many differing definitions of what constitutes a “Hard-to-Reach” (and thus, motivate and engage) energy user in the residential and non-residential sectors and to assess different approaches and barriers when targeting these users.
Research Questions: Who are main HTR energy users in each participating country? How can they be defined and described? How materially are these HTR segments underserved?
Answer: We have identified, described and characterised, in-depth, HTR energy users from expert interviews and surveys (Ashby et al, 2020a&b), and from over 1000 publications, in a literature review (Rotmann et al, 2020). They are all materially underserved, but to varying extent. For example, low-income households are relatively easy to identify and target with programmes, policies and interventions. The more compounding and intersecting vulnerabilities they endure, the harder-to-reach they become (see diagram below). Renters and landlords (residential and commercial) are extremely HTR, and for very different reasons. Socially-marginalised/stigmatised/criminalised groups and SMEs are very likely the hardest-to-reach, and most underserved energy users, especially on the extremely-diverse small business end (70% of commercial businesses).
3) To test the hypothesis that this underserved user group may entail a large number of energy users (>30%) which also means there is a large potential for energy efficiency and conservation improvements.
Research Questions: Based on country statistics and expert opinions, what is the approximate, estimated size of the HTR user group in each participating country? Based on implemented pilots and case studies in each participating country, what is the potential effectiveness (or effect size) that one can expect from behavioural-oriented policy or programme intervention on this group?
Answer: Based on all of our research (but especially our HTR literature review; Rotmann et al, 2020), we believe that this group is extremely large and entails at least 2/3 of all energy users. These estimated numbers are increasing rapidly with the global energy (poverty) crisis. For example, in the UK there are estimates that up to 2/3 of households will fall into energy hardship by the end of this year!
4) This Task aims at collecting insights into best practice and shared learnings about what type of interventions have the greatest potential to motivate and engage the HTR, and which were less successful (and why).
Research Questions: What type of policy and behaviour change programmes have the potential to motivate and engage HTR users to use energy more effectively and efficiently? What is the level of public acceptability of such policy interventions in each participating country? What are the ethical challenges associated with them?
Answer: Our Year 2 Case Study Analyses and the international research overview into energy hardship recently prepared for Aotearoa’s Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (Rotmann, 2022) delve deeply into best practice interventions and their challenges. Clearly the most important strategy is to engage trusted Middle Actors (especially from the community or frontline services) to help identify, recruit and engage vulnerable HTR energy users (in the residential sector). However, it needs to be acknowledged that these Middle Actors are also extremely hard-to-reach, and that building these trusted relationships and networks takes time, and involves a lot of humility, listening and empathy rather than approaching them with fixed ideas or top-down engagement strategies and interventions that aren’t fit-for-purpose.
5) To explore opportunities to develop and test field research pilots for HTR energy users based on robust social science process.
Research Question: Can we use field research pilots to prove that a robust, internationally-validated, standardised process for behavioural interventions on the HTR is a better approach than the current, scatter-shot one?
Answer: Yes. We have several field research pilots underway, in Aotearoa New Zealand and Canada, and our research process has been used highly-successfully to date (e.g. Rotmann & Karlin, 2021; Karlin et al, 2022; Mundaca et al, forthcoming).