Public support and engagement for low energy futures


The Positive Low Energy Futures (PLEF) scenarios provide a strong vision of the potential to reduce energy demand to ensure that the UK meets its climate objectives. The scenarios show that energy efficiency improvements can reduce demand to 30% below a ‘business as usual’ level, while further social changes to energy service demands can increase this to more than a 50% reduction, with the potential to also improve citizens’ quality of life. Individually, both technical energy efficiency and social change can play a significant role, but taken together, they can be transformative. Change at this scale will require advances in technology deployment, shifts in social practices, and integrated approaches to regional and national planning. While the visions of the future attempted to consider the public response and propose realistic but ambitious changes, citizens were not engaged in developing these visions. This project will look to redress this balance, with a specific focus on public engagement and support for a transformative low energy future.

Our approach will contend with the varieties of change that will be necessary; improved government mechanisms and policies, enhanced political capability and ambition; transformations in infrastructure and services; and public engagement and support for a low energy future. As part of this project, we will develop a Citizens’ Panel to understand if a social mandate exists for a low energy future. We will convene a dialogue between citizen panellists and technical analysts, to provide a detailed understanding of the conditions needed, and the expected roles of citizens, governments, businesses and other actors in the transition. Further development of the modelling tools will be undertaken to ensure that necessary and sufficient levels of information from scenarios can be provided to inform our panellists understanding of the proposed futures. This will include approaches to better visualise and use results for deliberation.

This project will offer direct application to ongoing government analysis and will produce a series of targeted resources designed for key policy audiences, as well as infographics, and a microsite to disseminate materials to stakeholders including NGOs, media, and the public. We will also develop a methodology that can be applied by both national and devolved governments. The PLEF scenarios have already led to a collaboration with the Government Chief Scientists through the Government Office for Science (GO-S) to undertake a cross-departmental scenario analysis of the potential for societal change and impact on decarbonisation in the UK. We will build on this and continue our collaborative work with government departments.

Research questions:

  • Is there a social mandate for a low energy future?
  • What are the underlying conditions required for citizens to change practices and technologies that deliver a low energy future?