A relational approach to characterizing householder perceptions of disruption in heat transitions

Thomas, Gareth Hugh and Flower, Jack and Gross, Rob and Henwood, Karen and Shirani, Fiona and Speirs, Jamie and Pidgeon, Nick (2024) A relational approach to characterizing householder perceptions of disruption in heat transitions. Nature Energy, 9 (5). pp. 570-579. ISSN 2058-7546 (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-024-01506-w)

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Heat decarbonization threatens substantial disruptions in temperate countries. However, the concept of disruption carries diverse meanings, potentially relating to cost, material space and everyday heating practices. Here, using interpretive risk theory, this article elucidates a relational understanding of how disruption is experienced and takes on meaning in everyday life. We deploy this framework to examine perceptions of four low-carbon heating technologies—heat pumps, hydrogen, hybrid heating and heat networks—alongside associated upgrades to distribution network infrastructure. Drawing on data from six, 1-day workshops representing a diversity of geographic and housing contexts across the United Kingdom, we address how existing relationships shape hopes, fears and expectations for heat decarbonization. Our findings help clarify the role of affective relationships, feelings of precarity, security and pressure in distinguishing material inconveniences from more fundamental disruptions to valued ways of life, and may be particularly relevant in other gas-dependent countries and regions.