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Governance, Infrastructure, Lifestyle Dynamics and Energy Demand: European Post-Carbon Communities

Final Report Summary - GILDED (Governance, infrastructure, lifestyle dynamics and energy demand: european post-carbon communities)

Publishable summary

Summary description of the project objectives

The specific objectives of Gilded can be summarised as:

1. Analyse structural factors (governance, infrastructure) shaping current and recent household energy demand, in five case-study areas.
2. Identify the socio-economic, cultural and political factors and actors facilitating or obstructing reduction of carbon-intensive energy use across urban and rural households.
3. In cooperation with stakeholders in each case study area, investigate trends in energy demand and use.
4. Develop agent-based models demonstrating potential outcomes of specific policies.
5. Identify systemic changes needed to make European energy policies more environmentally friendly.
6. Identify policy instruments, at levels from local government upwards, to bring about such systemic changes.
7. Ensure relevance and dissemination of research findings to policy makers and other stakeholders, the public, and academics.

Overview of the work performed since the beginning of the project

Work has focused on achieving the following across the case study areas (in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic):

- setting up a stakeholder advisory group for each beneficiary;
- assessing the constraints placed on energy demand reduction by infrastructure and governance;
- gathering qualitative data from semi-structured interviews;
- asking subjects to complete a questionnaire and carbon footprint calculator; and
- recruiting subjects for an intervention study on reducing energy demand, carried out alongside the survey. A prototype agent-based model of community energy demand has been completed. The first policy brief was delivered; the second was delivered shortly after the reporting period ended.

Overview of the main results achieved so far

Initial analysis of semi-structured interviews with members of the public found both concern and confusion about how energy use affects climate change. To achieve behavioural change, a focus on unsustainable use and waste of energy may be better than one on climate change specifically. Most people do not believe there is much they can do individually, but are willing to accept tough government action to reduce energy use. Initial results from a questionnaire survey across the case-study areas, based on an incomplete dataset, are consonant with this analysis.

There are both strengths and weaknesses in each of the energy-governance models found in our case studies, so no single one should be taken as an ideal. Stakeholders and the public need clear and consistent information relating to different scales (e.g. household, community, region), and feedback on the impact the collective action is making. There is a need for sufficient and equitable funds for household, community and stakeholder engagement in changing behaviours, and for examples of commitment and good practice by public bodies and stakeholder partnerships.

Expected final results

The survey respondents will fill in a second questionnaire and carbon calculator, allowing us to gauge the effect of the intervention. Rural-urban differences, and the effects of lifestyle and values, will be explored. Agent-based models will be used to gauge how difficult it will be to achieve the required reductions in energy demand by 2050, initially in the Scottish case-study area. Specific policy instruments will be identified, at local level upwards, to facilitate reductions in carbon-intensive energy demand and use.

Potential impact

Gilded will advance the state of the art on trade-offs and synergies between environmental and other objectives - specifically, those made at household level; and on household consumption, lifestyles, governance, socio-technical initiatives, agent-based modelling and policy integration. The case studies will enable investigation of how far policy recommendations can be generalised to European Union level. Our focus on the local and community level accords with the objectives of community cohesion, and participation.

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