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Public perceptions of demand-side management and a smarter energy future


Demand-side management (DSM) is a key aspect of many future energy system scenarios1,2. DSM refers to a range of technologies and interventions designed to create greater efficiency and flexibility on the demand-side of the energy system3. Examples include the provision of more information to users to support efficient behaviour and new ‘smart’ technologies that can be automatically controlled. Key stated outcomes of implementing DSM are benefits for consumers, such as cost savings3,4 and greater control over energy use. Here, we use results from an online survey to examine public perceptions and acceptability of a range of current DSM possibilities in a representative sample of the British population (N = 2,441). We show that, although cost is likely to be a significant reason for many people to take up DSM measures, those concerned about energy costs are actually less likely to accept DSM. Notably, individuals concerned about climate change are more likely to be accepting. A significant proportion of people, particularly those concerned about affordability, indicated unwillingness or concerns about sharing energy data, a necessity for many forms of DSM. We conclude substantial public engagement and further policy development is required for widespread DSM implementation.

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Figure 1: Acceptability of DSM scenarios.
Figure 2: Relationships between affordability concerns, perceptions about household energy use, and acceptance of DSM.
Figure 3: Mediation of the relationship between social grade and acceptance of DSM by affordability concerns.

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This work formed part of the programme of the UK Energy Research Centre and was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council award NE/G007748/1 (grant NE/I006753/1). Additional support was received from Horizon Digital Economy Research, RCUK grant (EP/G065802/1) and from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council award (EP/K002589/1). Thanks also go to the members of our advisory panel for providing insight and discussion, particularly at the design stages, and to Ipsos MORI for conducting this research, in particular M. Evans and E. Langley. Also thanks to the panel respondents for taking part in the research.

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All authors contributed to the design of this study, and the discussion of results and implications. C.D. led the design of the survey instrument. A.S. analysed the presented data and led in writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Alexa Spence.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Spence, A., Demski, C., Butler, C. et al. Public perceptions of demand-side management and a smarter energy future. Nature Clim Change 5, 550–554 (2015).

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