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ENTRUST Report Summary

Project ID: 657998
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENTRUST (Energy System Transition Through Stakeholder Activation, Education and Skills Development)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The aim of the ENTRUST project is to contribute to the planned transition towards a more sustainable energy system. The environmental, economic and societal risks associated with climate change means that we need to move away from the carbon-based fossil fuels that currently supply most of our energy. However, the nature of the alternative energy sources means that this is not just a simple matter of replacing fuel sources. The required changes to the energy system will require technological innovation, but also substantial changes in the way people live their lives and in their relationships with energy and the energy system. Thus, understanding the human and societal aspects of the energy system is a necessary component of a successful energy transition. This presents a significant challenge, as the ways in which people relate to the energy system and consume energy are shaped by existing technologies, infrastructure, practices, social conventions, values, attitudes and perceptions.

To address this challenge and in support of this envisaged transition towards a more sustainable energy system, the ENTRUST project is working with six communities across Europe to achieve a number of objectives:
• to develop an understanding of public awareness and perceptions of, attitudes towards, and behaviours and practices relevant to energy related technologies;
• to analyse the role and significance of socio-demographic attributes on energy-related behaviours and attitudes (e.g., gender, age, socio-economic status);
• to determine the awareness and perceptions of potential 'decarbonisation' paths and to explore the possible effect of practices, behaviour and attitudes within the communities on these paths;
• to facilitate the communities to envision potential sustainable energy futures;
• to develop a web-based knowledge and communications platform to stimulate a public dialogue on energy policy and innovation.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"Central to achieving the objectives of the project is defining and characterising the energy system, during the first half of the project a substantial work package on 'mapping' the energy system was completed. This involved creating a descriptive analysis of the energy system, detailing key actors, a summary of their key roles, and critical strategic points of interaction. This work comprised three distinct tasks: characterisation of energy system actors, characterisation of the technological regime & emerging innovations; and the identification and review of novel business models. Each of which resulted in a major outputs, namely D2.1 "Energy System Stakeholder Characterisation", D2.2 "Energy Technological Review" and D2.3 "Novel business models and main barriers in the EU energy system" - all of which are public documents available from the project website.

Understanding the public policy context of the energy system is also a very important preparatory work package within the project. The work involved reviewing the policies and regulations impacting on the energy system in six European countries (FR, DE, IE, IT, ES, UK) and assessing the potential “Europeanisation” of the energy policy landscape. To date four public reports (available from the project website) have been produced as a result of this work, namely: D4.1 "Report on policy & regulation landscape"; D4.2 "Europeanisation of national policy dialogues on energy pathways"; D4.3 "Review of market-driven approaches in sustainable energy policies"; D4.4 "Identification and Characterisation of Energy Behaviour Change Initiatives".

Central to the project's design is the community-based research approach adopted. Following a selection process, six communities in five European countries (FR, IE, IT, ES, UK) have been selected and an bespoke engagement plan prepared for each. A significant programme of engagement has been completed to date in each of the six communities, including: public awareness events, in-depth face-to-face interviews and focus groups. For the initial stage of this engagement, the emphasis has been on gathering information from the participants on their energy-related understandings, perceptions, attitudes, practices and behaviours. The conversations are recorded and transcribed (and translated in most cases) for further analysis. This engagement is ongoing.

A fundamental work package of the project comprises socio-demographic and socio-economic analyses, which will provide a deep understanding of human behaviour and practices in relation to energy consumption, and how they are affected by a variety of attributes, including in particular: gender, socio-economic status and age. Thus far, there is one output from this work: D3.1 "Survey of socio-demographic data on energy practices", which catalogues and characterises the principal datasets available to researchers in each country, as well as indicating specific research projects that provide information on the socio-economic and socio-demographic aspects of energy behaviour. This public document is also available from the project website.
The tasks dealing with intersectional analyses regarding both energy practices and attitudes to energy technologies (i.e., taking account of overlapping social identities such as gender, age, etc.) have commenced and will continue until late in the project. In these tasks the aforementioned transcripts collected from the communities are entered in a database and thematically analysed (i.e., examining, recording and interpreting patterns within data) using so-called qualitative 'coding' techniques.

There is a specific work package on identifying and evaluating potential energy transition pathways i.e., determining means through which the newly developed understandings of technology, behaviour and integrated socio-technical interventions can best support a transition to a low carbon energy system. There are no outputs to date and the work continues into the second half of the project. Furthermore, a knowledge and communication platform is being designed to disseminate and share knowledge and to facilitate and promote dialogue on energy efficiency and transitioning to a low carbon system. Thus far, an initial plan for content and a so-called 'paper prototype' of the platform has been developed. The platform architecture, database, and user experience and currently under development."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

A recent review of the scientific literature by Sovacool (2014) found that there has been a dearth of social science oriented qualitative research in ‘energy scholarship’ generally. Even the limited qualitative research that does exist tends to be structured to produce a ‘thin’ description linking socio-demographic characteristics to specific behaviours in a rather functionalist manner, rather than trying to understand people’s practices within the broader social context, and how that context may inform those practices. ENTRUST aims to capture a rich, ‘thick’, description which gives context, elaborates on intentions and meanings, and traces the evolution and development of phenomena. In this way, the project aims to provide answers to provide a deeper understanding of the human and societal aspects of both energy use and the energy system in general. This understanding can contribute to the creation of an energy transition that meets environmental and economic requirements, while also finding public acceptability and meeting the wider needs of society.

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