Engaging communities on energy efficiency

The policy implications of the RECCKN research findings:  interviews with the Keele University research team.  (Duration: 12:30)

With rising world energy prices, concern about the future UK energy supply and the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, a central challenge for UK policy is how to inspire the British public to increase energy efficiency, both within our way of life and within our poorly-insulated housing stock.

This film addresses that policy challenge, intellectually and practically.  (If you have fast download, click 'HD' to watch it in 720 High Definition.)

In a nutshell

This documentary addresses the challenge to inspire the British public to increase energy efficiency, both within our way of life and within our poorly-insulated housing stock.  It directly counters the familiar political narratives that (i) view 'the public' and 'the energy poor' as lacking awareness, knowledge and motivation, and that (ii) see the solution in terms of more expert information and more schemes 'done to' people by energy and insulation companies.

In interviews, the RECCKN research team argue the need for local community networks to share practical knowledge and experience of energy efficiency, within a process enabled and supported by trusted third sector organisations as 'honest brokers'.  The findings are from a 2-year RECCKN research project by Keele University and the Marches Energy Agency (team list below).

The project and documentary have particular significance for the current UK 'Green Deal' and 'Energy Company Obligation', in terms of how these high-cost commercially-led initiatives could be made more relevant to people's experience, more trustworthy and ultimately more effective.

The story…

When Keele University and the Marches Energy Agency started to research community knowledge about domestic energy saving and energy efficiency, they found that the discussion groups themselves were something that people wanted and needed.

The discussions revealed the large gap between the kinds of generalised independent information currently available online, and the level of detail that people need to make wise decisions in their own houses.  That gap is currently filled only by companies aiming to sell their own products.  There is nothing at community level to help people identify what may be useful, or to share their own practical experience with others in similar houses and circumstances.  The films offer practical ways to make it happen.

There is a parallel public documentary called Energy saving: it's a social thing, to inspire communities to share practical experience on how to reduce energy bills.  It is based on interviews with the public participants in the project.

Video contents

The policy challenge 00:00
Scientist and social scientist perspectives 01:12

The research project 01:34

Current social science insight 02:05
The challenge of changing action/behaviour 02:39
Insight – Dialogue enables action 02:59

Method – Focussed discussion groups 04:14


– EDMs inspire people to explore energy use 04:31
– Group meetings made energy discussable 05:40
– Dialogue built knowledge & confidence 06:42

Findings (cont.)

– The 'energy poor' are often knowledge rich 07:15
– Massive household differences; the value of comparing 08:15
– Enjoyment and community wellbeing 08:45
– Sharing practical, grounded, lived experience 09:02

The challenge of engagement on a national scale 09:30

– It cannot all be through the energy companies 09:44
– A need for peer-to-peer support networks on energy 10:04
– A need for trusted organisations as honest brokers 10:50

Reproducibility of the actions and findings 11:07
A personal route map for future public engagement 11:15

Credits 12:00

Further information

RECCKN was one of seven interdisciplinary projects funded by the ESRC and EPSRC under their Energy and Communities collaborative venture.  Further information, a press release, articles and reports are available on the project website: www.recckn.org.uk

Interviews, distillation and video production by PublicSpace.  Commissioned by Keele University as part of the ESRC and EPSRC funded project: Reducing Energy Consumption through Community Knowledge Networks (RECCKN).  The research was carried out in 2011-13.

The team (2013):

Andrew Dobson, Professor of Politics and Principal Investigator on the project.
Mark Ormerod, Professor of Clean Technology within the Institute for the Environment, Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics.
Dr. Zoe Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science.
Dr. Sherilyn MacGregor, Senior Lecturer in Politics.
Dr. Philip Catney, Senior Lecturer in Politics.
Simon Ross, Project Manager, Low Carbon Communities Team at Marches Energy Agency.
Dr. Neil Simcock, Research Associate, now working at Lancaster University.

PublicSpace Director Dr Simon Pardoe worked closely with the research team to identify, distil and communicate the policy-relevant findings through video.

If you would like to embed the video, contact PublicSpace.

Video credits:

Development and Interviews: Dr. Simon Pardoe
Pre-production liaison with Dr. Neil Simcock
Cinematography: Matthew Dentus
Production support: Alan Golding
Post-production discussion with Dr. Neil Simcock and Dr. Sherilyn MacGregor
Music: Joel Hunger
Filmed on location at Keele University and in Shrewsbury and Newcastle-under-Lyme
Produced, Directed and Edited by Dr. Simon Pardoe


University of Keele, Marches Energy Agency, EPSRC, ESRC.