Who applies for energy grants?

Owen, Anne and Middlemiss, Lucie and Brown, Donal and Davis, Mark and Hall, Stephen and Bookbinder, Ruth and Brisbois, Marie Claire and Cairns, Iain and Hannon, Matthew and Mininni, Giulia (2023) Who applies for energy grants? Energy Research and Social Science, 101. 103123. ISSN 2214-6296 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2023.103123)

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Most domestic energy retrofit policies in the UK are designed to incentivise economically rational consumers. Logically, this should mean that applicants to domestic energy incentives are those who can financially benefit the most from these subsidies. Here, we test this logic by asking the question 'what types of households apply for domestic energy incentives in the UK?'. To answer this question, we systematically assess the characteristics of households who apply for incentives and develop a GB neighbourhood level household typology bringing together data sets on domestic energy incentives and household geo-demographics. We discover that some types of households are much more likely to apply for incentives than others. In particular, we find that Asian origin, owner-occupier households of low income living in energy inefficient terraces apply for ECO incentives at a rate twelve times higher than expected. This phenomenon is even more pronounced when we look at applications by geographic area, with these households applying in very high numbers in the industrial north of England. Building on recent work on energy consumption and social relations, we argue that understanding the increased likelihood of these household types to apply for domestic energy incentives demands a relational perspective. These households share geo-demographic and dwelling characteristics, which suggests the spread of uptake of policy through the community through networks of social relations, as opposed to uptake purely on the basis of perceived cost-benefit. We conclude by offering insights for policy makers about the possibilities for mobilising social relations in the delivery of energy efficiency projects.