Understanding the drivers behind high energy consumption within UK households: an interdisciplinary approach

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Xinfang Wang

Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change is a global problem that affects every country and each individual. The UK introduced its own carbon budgets, aiming to reduce its GHGs by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. The United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015 came to an agreement on limiting the global average temperature rise to "well below 2oC". It has been argued that the Paris Agreement requires deeper and more rapid emission reductions than current UK targets. The CO2 emissions from energy use by households account for almost a third of total CO2 emissions in the UK in recent years. The research aims to explore drivers of high energy consumption in order to identify where there may be intervention points that can achieve a greater level of emission reductions than conventional policy tools in the short to medium term. Previous studies have focused on either socioeconomic factors or practices to explore household energy consumption and CO2 emissions, but have not integrated both aspects to identify drivers behind high energy consumption. To address this gap in the literature, the research applies an interdisciplinary approach to analyse the interconnected factors impacting on household energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Socioeconomic characteristics and practice theory are combined in order to understand how and why energy is consumed at home, and specifically to explore high energy consumption and related CO2 emissions at the household level. Both quantitative cluster analyses based on household socioeconomic factors and qualitative data collection and thematic analyses on energy-related practices at home have been conducted in the research. Results indicate that various combinations of socioeconomic factors and dwelling-related characteristics can collectively lead to high CO2 emissions from energy use at home. Nonetheless, these characteristics cannot fully explain why some households are high emitters, as they still share a variety of similar characteristics with average households in the UK. Besides household socioeconomic factors and dwelling-related characteristics, the materials, procedure and meanings of practices; people's discursive and practical consciousness; and dominant meanings of the home, also collectively influence energy use at home. Policymakers should consider not only improving the energy efficiency of the dwelling and appliances, but also how people's hidden knowledge and routines allow or constrain the performance of energy-related practices, as well as how the existing meanings of practices and dominant meanings of the home can be supported with less energy input and associated CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency related policies could focus more on how to reduce the interruption to people's everyday lives and the level of space loss. Policymakers could also work with different stakeholders, such as local authorities and community groups to tackle the challenges of installation of double gazing, cavity wall and roof insulation in the private rented sector. Policies for promoting renewable electricity micro-generation in the UK can target more effectively the high emitters who are at home most weekdays, as they can be more flexible in rearranging their use of appliances in daily routines and potentially reduce energy consumption during the peak time. In addition to combining a novel range of approaches and perspectives to understanding energy use at home, the research makes a contribution to achieving deeper and more rapid emission reductions in the short to medium term in the UK by focusing on the drivers behind high energy consumption at home than average energy consumption in general.

Details

Original languageEnglish
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Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2018