My doctoral research is entitled “Behavioural Responses to Photovoltaic Systems in the UK Domestic Sector”. The following is an excerpt from a recent proposal, outlining my research plans. The project will be running until Spring 2006.
Renewable energy technologies have enjoyed significant growth in recent years, largely due to concerns over anthropogenic climate change. In the UK, the government aims to provide 20% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and one such technology, photovoltaics (PV), is currently the focus of a £20 million installation grant scheme. Many of these grants are awarded for domestic sector installations, providing households with the opportunity to generate their own electricity. Household PV studies from other countries have indicated that behavioural changes can result from owning a PV system and the use of energy-use monitors (which are frequently installed with PV systems). This can cause either an increase or decrease in consumption but the mechanisms for such a change have not been studied in any detail.
This study will therefore examine behavioural responses to photovoltaics in the UK domestic sector and seek to identify the mechanisms by which PV systems impact household behaviour. Domestic energy consumption will be presented using an integrated framework, facilitating an analysis of agent interactions (i.e. between households, society, government and so on). Further theoretical guidance comes from literature on technologies and society, providing insight on the symbolism of PV technologies. Energy-use monitors will also be studied in detail, with regard to their role in informing households and enabling PV as a conserving technology.
The methodology consists of exploration and inspection phases. In the first stage, existing data on PV households and their energy consumption will be gathered. This material will then inform detailed interviews and monitoring of individual PV households, as well as government and industry actors. Finally an agent-based model will be created, consolidating this knowledge and guiding an analysis of current policy initiatives. The outputs of the research will be focused on promoting positive behavioural responses to PV via current metering, green electricity and distributed generation initiatives.