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Consumers or users? The impact of user learning about smart hybrid heat pumps on policy trajectories for heat decarbonisation

10 January, 2021

Consumers or users? The impact of user learning about smart hybrid heat pumps on policy trajectories for heat decarbonisation

Tim Foxon

Research paper   Digital Society

Bryony Parrish, Sabine Hielscher and Tim Foxon

Decarbonisation policies often emphasise the uptake of new end-use technologies, seeing people as consumers of technologies with predictable impacts. In the UK, smart hybrid heat pumps (SHHP) have attracted policy interest as a technology potentially offering multiple benefits for home heat decarbonisation. This paper draws on domestication theory, a perspective that frames people as users who actively learn about technologies, to analyse interviews and observations with installers and users involved in the first UK trial of SHHP. This perspective reveals that users’ learning about SHHPs may erode part of the energy savings they offer and have implications for future technology uptake, including the trajectories of heat decarbonisation currently envisaged by policy makers. However, it also reveals opportunities for policy making to influence user learning, including paying closer attention to material elements such as radiator controls and space to air laundry alongside improved information provision. This could be supported by engaging with users as their learning emerges over time. Overall, the paper highlights the policy relevance of technology use as well as uptake and adds to calls for energy policy to think beyond information provision and economic incentives to engage with households, implying a less deterministic approach to policy making.

Publication details

Parrish, B., Hielscher, S. and Foxon, T.J. 2021. Consumers or users? The impact of user learning about smart hybrid heat pumps on policy trajectories for heat decarbonisation. Energy Policy, 148, Part B: 112006. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2020.112006Opens in a new tab

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash

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