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Social capital and the diffusion of energy-reducing innovations in UK households

McMichael, M.H.; (2011) Social capital and the diffusion of energy-reducing innovations in UK households. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Research is presented on the influence of context-specific social capital in the diffusion of energy-reducing innovations within UK communities. This is motivated by the UK government’s policy priority areas of climate change and energy use in the domestic sector. There is currently little evidence that standard technology and behavioural innovations will be adopted widely enough by householders in time to achieve Government energy efficiency targets. Accelerating rates of adoption are therefore important. Diffusion of innovation theory states that the communication of information on innovations through a social system encourages adoption. Social capital theory states that interpersonal communication is a key means of gaining resources, such as energy efficiency information, for attaining certain goals. There are no known previous empirical studies specifically examining the influence of social capital on information diffusion regarding the adoption of household energy efficiency measures in the UK. Using a multi-case case study research design and mixed methods approach, three British communities were surveyed, the quantitative findings of which were contextualised by qualitative focus group findings. The results show that social capital was used most often with newer innovations that were being promoted by an energy company through weakly-tied social network members. Respondents generally did not indicate seeking more information from people in the community than outside of it, but did indicate trusting information from local energy efficiency intermediaries. The findings show that while standard campaigns may account for two-thirds of information seeking behaviour, they may not be addressing up to one-third of information-seekers who would prefer to speak to people they know. Findings also show that there are important differences to recognise between types of innovations and communities, and that tailoring campaigns to communities’ communication channels is imperative. These findings have important implications for informing future community-based energy efficiency programmes.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Social capital and the diffusion of energy-reducing innovations in UK households
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Edited version provided for copyright reasons
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > UCL Energy Institute

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