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Beyond climate, culture and comfort in European preferences for low-carbon heat

29 December, 2020

Beyond climate, culture and comfort in European preferences for low-carbon heat

Benjamin K. Sovacool

Research paper   Digital Society

Benjamin K. Sovacool, Christina Demski and Lance Noel

It is imperative that climate, energy, and sustainability policy researchers and practitioners grapple with the difficulty of decarbonizing heat, which remains the largest single end-use energy service worldwide. In this study, based on a comparative assessment of five original and representative national surveys in Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (N = 10,109), we explore public attitudes of household heat decarbonization in Europe. We explore how people conceive of the purposes of low-carbon heat, their preferences for particular forms of heat supply, and their (at times odd) practices of heat consumption and temperature settings. The data reveal four significant challenges to heat decarbonization that are consistent across geographies: 1) High satisfaction with existing, often fossil fuel based, heating systems; 2) Varying and divergent preferences and expectations for thermal comfort; 3) Householders unlikely to change their heating system in the near-term, in part driven by low familiarity and knowledge of alternative systems; and 4) heat satisfaction appears lower as the fuel mix is decarbonized. The paper concludes by connecting these findings with policy and research implications.

Publication details

Sovacool, B.K., Demski, C. and Noel, L. 2020. Beyond climate, culture and comfort in European preferences for low-carbon heat. Global Environmental Change, 66: 102200. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102200Opens in a new tab Open access

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