I am going to ask a quick one to each of you, just to kick things off.
Mari, I'll start with you:
I wanted to ask - I'll ask this to you first but everyone else to chip in on the same question.
I want to ask your thoughts on what social sciences and humanities bring to the study of energy and its uses, because this is an area that if you weren't really thinking about it too hard, you might think that the most important disciplines are maybe the natural sciences and engineering, so how do social sciences and humanities bring a different perspective and how do they complement those other disciplines?
MARI: Thank you Madeleine, hi everyone, thanks for inviting me to join today, it's really interesting to be here.
I am a social scientist, this is a total disclaimer, so of course I am going to talk about how social science is really important in this domain but one of the things you already touched on is that energy and particularly energy services, and Mike is actually an expert when it comes to energy services, so I won't touch on that too much but basically the way we use energy in the home for example, it's all about everyday life so engineers are brilliant in terms of doing the technology, and developing the technology, but you need social scientists to really look into the detail of how do people use energy, electricity or heat at home.
It's about when do we put our kettles on, how do we use our heating, when we play with our phones, we need to - do all those games, they need electricity to be worked on, so it is really about how we use energy at home, and if you look at the household scale, but it's also about relationships.
It's about how people's relationships within the energy system form, and it's really - social scientists can get into those nitty-gritty details about that.
It can also be really important to look at things like societal processes, so how are, for example, decisions about energy made, who is involved, who is in the room when we decide what kind of energy system we are going to be designing, what it's going to be looking like in the future, so social scientists really are key in that sense, that they can unbuild these issues, but also including things like structural issues that might be in place, that some of the other sciences perhaps can't see it as well, which is really thinking about issues like structural inequalities that are in place
that might then influence things like people not actually having enough energy services in the moment and being in energy poverty so social scientists work brilliantly in this, because we have the methods like interviewing techniques or surveys, and we can really go into people's everyday lives and ask questions that perhaps other sciences are not able to, but it's also really important that we work together with the engineers, so let's not be in our own social science box either.
MADELEINE: That's a lot, Mari.
Frank, what would you add to that, what does history bring in particular?
FRANK: Yes, I would like to echo Mari's confident defence of the social sciences.
One thing to add, and that's where the humanities come in, is culture.
And that has partly to do with ideals and norms, so what do we think is good or bad, that changes, but it's also about forms of communicating with each other, and it's about embodied - it's also about embodied meaning, so that sounds pretty abstract but I give you a little titbit from history, in around 1970s, municipal providers of energy realised that most households by then had boilers to heat water, different kinds, but nonetheless, people kept having a weekly bath, rather than a daily shower, and one reason for that was that there was a widespread suspicion that if you bathed too often, that your - people said your skin will thin out.
The notion that the skin will thin out; now dermatologists, of course, have something to say about that, but it's a good example of how meanings about energy use are passed on and recycled.
One thing I would perhaps add is, and this may come as a surprise to both social scientists and engineers, and natural scientists, this thing we're talking about, energy, is far from straightforward.
So we use the term as if it's a normal self-evident one, but 100 years ago, people didn't talk about energy, they talked about fuels, and they sharply distinguished between the different kind of fuel cultures, and of course, if you're heating with coal, for instance, you have a completely different relationship to the fuel, because you have to carry it up the stairs, get your hands dirty, you have to store it, it's very different from, say, town gas or natural gas or later electricity.
So one thing the humanities can add to this is a sort of better understanding of how people engage with what we now call energy.
MADELEINE: Fantastic, thanks so much, Mike, over to you, what would you add?
MICHAEL: Well, I have got a tough job to add to that, I think and obviously my disclaimer is as a social researcher as well I clearly think that these approaches are fundamental to the study of energy systems, I mean, to the extent that I would say that it's almost like expressing an interest in musical instruments, and the design of musical instruments, without thinking about music, it's the tell us, the reason for being of these systems that we're designing.
And without, as I said, being able to add too much to what was said before, all I would say is in a climate emergency, when we're faced with thinking about how we can face up to that, and think of solutions, while - and I don't want to also do down engineers at all, but while an engineer might be able to make a system incredibly efficient at doing what it does, it takes the social research side to ask questions like: what is really being valued in the service here which is being delivered?
Are there other ways in which that might be able to be delivered, that require no or little energy, or ways in which the meaning of those services might change, so that they are less valued, and I think it opens up a lot of space for creativity. So super-important.
MADELEINE: Thanks all three of you, I'm looking forward to picking up on some of those themes through the rest of the conversation.
I will ask you each an individual question now and I will let all the panel chip in on it though and I am going to start with you Frank, this builds a bit on some of the things you have already talked about, but why is it important in your view to understand energy demand when we think about decarbonising homes?
Can you give some examples of how and why household energy use and demand has changed over time?
FRANK: Yes, it's not that we tried to decarbonise homes in the past, but in a way we have been there before, and that's where history - and the history of demand is quite useful.
So you know, what's now considered normal in our energy habits and use was completely abnormal even 70 years ago.
If you think of central heating, for example, or I mentioned the idea that you have daily or multiple daily showers, many in the younger generations have.
So one question then is: how does this what we consider normal, and no longer think about, how is that being produced? What are the forces behind it?
And I would say by and large, most scholars have approached this from the supply side end, so they have looked at the infrastructures, and the engineers, and changing pricing of different fuels and so forth, and all of those, of course, matter, but what's implicit in many of these approaches is that the demand is just there.
It's just going to be - people will naturally want to have daily showers, or they naturally will want to have 21 or 22 degrees Celsius, because we today think of that as normal, and that's a kind of classic mistake of not thinking about the production of these norms and practices in a historical way, because at one stage, it would have been considered silly or fantastic.
So instead of starting with the supply and the infrastructures, we need to turn it around, and also ask, what produces the demand for these services that certain fuels provide?
If you take a very long view, and take the UK as an example, which we have done in a historical project, and you look at the heating of space and water, you can pick out three things that were really important in changing both the level of demand, and also the qualitative side of demand.
The first is that you notice that when people talk these days about transition, they automatically assume a before and after, as if we're moving from one energy system and one fuel to another.
Most often people think there was coal, and then voilà, one day people used gas and electricity.
But actually if you go into the home, for most decades, most people use parallel systems or complementary systems, so the paraffin heater next to a gas stove or an electric stove, and you even have producers who realise people want to use different fuels, so they put two different fuels in the same kind of stove, to give that flexibility.
So things are not linear in that way.
The second, I think, thing to appreciate is how demand can be kind of designed or potentially inserted into the home, through political channels.
So in public housing, which was a main housing provider in most cities in Britain until the 1970s/1980s, you have political decisions about who should get the contract to refit entire blocks or neigbourhoods with particular fuels, and you have a political decision and legislation that prioritises what's called freedom to choose, by which people don't mean the end user or the households, but really giving different utility providers a way into the system.
So that kind of political system produces an oversupply of competing parallel fuels, which is important for the demand trajectory.
And then finally, it's inside the home, so what do people actually - the users, what sort of demand do they develop?
And here, I think it's important to highlight that a lot of the engineering studies work with imagined users or average users, to try and come up with a shared standard, but in reality, we found enormous variety, so you have, in the same block of flats, you have some people who keep their room temperature below 15 degrees, and then the neighbour next door running it 24 hours, all year round, at 22.
Now that - as you can imagine, if you're an engineer or an architect, that causes considerable stress to the building and has all sorts of side effects, not to mention mould!
You have people who don't like central heating, and they put socks and other things into the ducts to prevent the air to circulate into rooms such as bedrooms, where they have been accustomed to sleep in a colder temperature, so you have enormous variety.
Why does that matter?
I think it alerts us to the fact that if we want to think about transitions, we can press multiple different buttons, there isn't just one magic solution, and it may be worth thinking about how one can work with low energy users, and appreciate that these might be pathways that should be privileged perhaps or even encouraged, rather than imagining we all need to somehow converge on a particular standard of energy consumption.
I will probably stop there for the moment, thank you.
MADELEINE: Thanks so much, I just want to ask a quick follow-up, because you mentioned that demand can be inserted into the system through political processes and I wondered if there are other processes that work to create demand, how and why does demand change?
FRANK: Well I mean, I would always preface it by saying it's the potential for change, so obviously, if you price certain things to try and - you can encourage demand, the infrastructures you produce, so if you want central heating structures and you have a block of flats, and you have, say, centralised boilers, that of course makes it easier than if you expect each tenant to come up with their own system.
There are some tenants by the way who are really keen on realising their imagined demand and who are harassing municipal authorities, asking them, will you give me the right?
I don't like this gas, I want to be modern, I want electricity all round, will you let me do it in my flat or will you punish me and fine me if I want to move out?
So it's at the micro level really, where for tenants, tenants' demand has an interface with the housing provider that I think is important, so across the threshold, the pictures that come to my mind is the meter readers, so until the 50s and 60s, the meters which recorded your electricity consumption, in most flats, were right next to the door, visible, so people could see it.
The meter man came in, people noted it down, and they had a little chat, or got a little, I don't know, gin or coffee on the way, so energy is out in the open and I think one trick we've missed or lost in history is that for a variety of reasons, people have been trying to hide energy, so the cables are now behind dry walls, the meter moves down into a basement, the bills we receive only now come every quarter or every year, or direct debit, so energy has been kind of decommunicated.
It's that, I think, we want to perhaps think about, and make that a little bit more vivid and lively and creative, so that people, when they have demand, they also actually realise that they're causing stress on the energy system.
MADELEINE: Thanks a lot.
In the interests of time I'll move on to a different topic.
I'm going to go to you next, Mari.
So I was fascinated to read a piece that you put out recently about the role of emotions in sustainability transitions.
Can you tell us in what ways to people's feelings affect energy transitions and how do those feelings about energy change over time?
MARI: Thanks Madeleine, that's a new paper that is just literally out, being published so we looked at previous research to see if anyone has actually paid any attention to emotions in sustainability transitions and there is a little available research on that actually at the moment so we are kind of saying OK we need more research on this definitely, to find out a bit more.
We know that we are not rational beings, we know that our emotions impact our decision-making quite a lot and I think that for us to have a successful net zero transition, we do need people's positive emotional commitment, and Frank already mentioned things like showers versus baths, and people do have really strong emotions and feelings about specific energy technologies, whether they might realise it or not.
I mean, this is a very Northern European view, but I'm originally from Finland, I have been in the UK for a very long time, I absolutely love saunas and they are really horrible, because they use so much electricity, that from a climate point of view, we should get rid of all of those.
From a climate point of view, we should not really have baths but showers instead, but people love their baths and there is a lot of things that we, as consumers, citizens, householders, we need to change our behaviour.
But that means that some of the things that we are doing now, that we absolutely love, we might have to get rid of, and there will be things like loss, and this is not just about at household level, but in transitions in general, we are talking about all, so when we move from different fuels, when we change fuels, like what Frank was saying earlier, for example, so we have seen in previous research, particularly the sense of loss of community identity and livelihoods, for example in coal mining towns, when the mines have been closed, so that's something that is very well mentioned in previous research.
So I do think that this is something that we do have to take into consideration, and I know that it's not just -
I'm not just talking about emotions at household level, you probably all saw Alok Sharma at the end of COP being tearful, realising that after two weeks, there might be a chance that we might be able to stay at 1.5 degrees, so people are not immune to this thing called emotion, although often it's not involved in policy processes, but it does affect a lot of our decision-making, how we actually purchase the things that we do, for example.
And particularly in situations where we are in the future - well, from now on, we're going to be asked to be - you know, change things.
I would love to get rid of my gas boiler, for example, it's causing me so much stress, because it's breaking all the time, but I don't know if I can have a heat pump, because the house is Victorian and there are other issues, so emotions particularly that households will feel when it comes to energy transition but I do think it relates to the wider issue of how are we changing our technologies on a wider scale, what do policymakers think?
They are not robots either, although sometimes they are made out to be like that.
I am sorry if there are any policymakers in the audience! Hi to everyone, you are also human beings.
So yes, I leave it at that.
FRANK: Can I add one footnote on the British situation, which concerns the coal fire?
So when coal fires were prohibited, and a transition was enforced in households, many people experienced this really with sadness.
And their comment wasn't - it was the new heating systems, gas mostly, had the wrong kind of warmth, they said.
So the wrong kind of warmth because for them, warmth wasn't just Celsius, it has a certain aesthetics to it.
Now they survived but they didn't like it at all.
MARI: Sorry, can I just quickly add to that, that's a really good point, Frank, thanks for highlighting.
I have found that in - I'm aware of that same research and there's a really important point to make, because coal fires brought people and family together and people had the mantelpiece where they put their most important photos, nowadays it's probably on Instagram but also people have talked about particularly moving away from fireplaces to heat pumps, for example, that people say, I'm not going to sit around my heat pump with my family, so technology, you know, brings people together in different ways.
MADELEINE: Sometimes we hear people saying, people love their boilers, you don't love your boiler, do we have any evidence that people love their boilers?
MARI: I'm sure they do if they work OK, we just have an old one.
MADELEINE: Thanks so much.
Mike, I'll come to you.
I wanted to ask you more about the policy side.
We have had some examples already about things governments have done to try and influence household demand for energy.
Can you tell us a bit about what you know in terms of what's been done in the past by governments to try and influence demand, and have these been successful?
What should we learn from them?
MICHAEL: Well I will probably going to come at that a little bit obliquely because the work which I have been involved in, and which you're referring to, was I suppose mainly led by the electricity industry of the late 80s which obviously was under public ownership at the time, but I guess not strictly a government policy issue as we might think of it now, but firstly just to say, I think it's superinteresting, what you have been talking about, and it really makes me wish I had another life that I could spend to learn about all of those things, both of what you were saying there, and I should say, I'm going to just mention very briefly a little bit of historical research, I guess, I was lucky enough to be involved in, but also with the caveat that I'm an energy researcher and not a historian, but I hope I can try and inject some of the ways in which I found getting that sort of perspective useful.
So my PhD was looking at essentially flexibility and demand-side response measures, so this is efforts to influence when people - their patterns of electricity use, for example.
During the course of that, I came into that relatively unaware of what had really been done, and learned that there was this rich history, going back really as long as there have been electricity systems in attempts to do that, and one of the things I was most intrigued to learn about was this innovation from the - well, late 70s, I think, and early 80s, called the radio telly switch, which basically came out of - there's long been thought given to how - electricity systems operators have tried to think, essentially, how can we operate this system in such a way as to optimise our use of the assets we've got available, using electricity when - creating a demand for electricity, and actually being able to directly control that demand as much as we can ourselves?
And there have been many ways of doing that, this way called the radio telly switch, which I hadn't been aware of, essentially it was teamwork between the electricity industry and the BBC and they hid a secret signal in the BBC Radio 4 long wave transmission, so using that transmission, they got together with the electricity industry, they were able to send out this signal and do things like swap electricity meters between peak and off peak modes, but also they could turn loads like electric storage heaters off and on, and you could get around problems like daylight saving time, with time switches, and it allowed you to have a lot more precise ability to offer interesting sorts of tariffs to mop up that electricity on the system when otherwise there was low demand, and make best use of that system.
So I was really interested, partly just to learn that when you think you're listening to Test Match Special, there is actually this secret encoded signal going on that your storage heater, at least in the late 80s, might have been tuning into, but also touching a bit into what Frank was talking about, as soon as there was this possibility, obviously people in the industry began to try and think in lots of inventive ways, about how they could make use of that capability, and the way - the product which really caught my eye, when I was doing the research around this, was a tariff called budget warmth and essentially what this was was an offering whereby the area boards at the time would agree to install a storage heater in one or two rooms of low-income elderly households, for free and they would operate that, turning it off and on remotely, using this radio telly switch, just for a flat rate, so a few pounds a week, all through the year, everything included, the cost of the equipment, cost of the maintenance, cost of the fuel, and the idea was this could even come straight out of a pension payment, and it would just be predictable, you would never get these price shocks, and the reason why this was superinteresting to me was because obviously these kind of energy service models, heaters are service in this case, are talked a lot now as a way of getting these potentially expensive technologies into people's homes, we might need like heat pumps, and also being able to offer a route to provide flexibility because obviously the provider is motivated to serve up that electricity
at times when it's cheapest, let's say.
So for me it was almost like discovering that there was a massive nationwide trial of a superinteresting energy service model which had already been done, and had many years of experience of.
Obviously it's not as we would have designed it exactly now, in the sense that there was basically no user research done on it whatsoever, and it was very hard, I found, not being a historian, to track down information about it, as well as - through online searching, I was digging through bound typewritten conference papers in the IET library and going through secret records in the National Archives and it was massively eye-opening for me, but I've written a paper about it, which people can check out and see, but basically, I looked at how this tariff was pushed out there, working with local authorities and so on, it seems that it was in multiple thousand homes at a certain point, and you even see references to it now in Ofgem spreadsheets or something, where there are still some meter classifications which seem to be associated with it.
But ultimately it failed, it didn't take off.
I think for a range of reasons, it connected both with the structure of the industry, the emergence and relative popularity at the time of other approaches, we know that storage heaters had their problems and were unpopular, and people's inability to control it and so on, but where it really was interesting for me to go with this was, having done this work, what can we learn about heaters as service offerings from now, for example?
And there are a few points I pull out but one or two of them are: as soon as you're taking away from offering - you know, selling energy in something that can be very clearly measured, that most people agree on, like a meter of units of gas or electricity, and you're taking it through to some kind of measure of heat or even warmth, that's not that easy necessarily to do even now, in such a way that people will feel happy that they're getting the level of service provided.
Also issues in terms of who is the customer and who is the user?
It's fine if you're a private individual, who has decided to go for this service, but if you're getting it installed in your flat, and you're a private tenant, how do you know what's happening to your data, in terms of what actual levels of heat are being selected and so on.
There's various other things that can be said, but it was both a great learning experience and prompt for thinking about the challenges which these things face for me right now.
Just very final comment, I wanted to mention on Mari's stuff the emotion, like I said, there was no user research or no user-centred design approach taken into account in this, as far as I could really well.
I mean, someone could pipe up and tell me like I'm wrong, it doesn't seem like it was published, but the key thing about emotions is they're something that we can really relate to on - well, on an emotional level.
You can really imagine how a user might feel joy or loss at these changes and think about how those can be recaptured in alternative service offerings and I think it's a powerful motivator there as well.
Now I'll shut up.
MADELEINE: Thanks so much.
I'm going to have to find out more about this service, but did you have to have your TV or radio on for it to communicate with your appliances?
MICHAEL: No, it's basically like there's a radio receiver in your appliance which is constantly listening out and is tripped between states according to the code which is sent through the system.
MADELEINE: We have actually got a comment from Andy on the chat
saying some of this dynamic telly switching still goes ahead in Scotland, and in parts of the Midlands.
That's fascinating, thank you so much.
I would like us to move on a little bit, to try and draw out what this means for our work in decarbonising homes as a nation, I guess, today.
We have a comment in the chat about the points that Frank made around emotions, coal fires and the wrong kind of heat, it says: given that heat pumps distribute heat differently to gas and oil boilers because they work at lower temperatures, is there anything we can learn from what happened in the past, and how people maybe learned to love new ways of delivering heat, or didn't, that would help to facilitate the current transition?
I will go to Frank first.
FRANK: Yes I think it's a very good question.
There is a very quick jump in the question, that implies we need to make people to love the new technology.
I think it's perhaps the bias of the historical record that of course when we find out something about how people actually use new technologies, it often is that they abuse and mishandle the new technologies, so there is actually a lot - that indicates that many people simply either don't understand the new technology, or they try to hang on to ways of managing that come from the old technology, so you have - I mean, cases in the 1950s where new gas heaters, tenants start complaining about their high gas bills, to the council, and the council initially brushes them off and said this can't be three times - you're using three times as much as specified by average use, but eventually the engineers go out into these households and they find that people just - they press the wrong buttons, they hold them too long, they still use matches, trying to light things, even though there is a switch which they are meant to use, etc.
And of course you can say, well look, it's all written down, it should be straightforward, do it but people are people, and so I think the first lesson is really to assume a huge variety of ways in which households will respond to these new technologies, how they will have, for instance, assumptions about when the heat will really go up, because they used to have, I don't know, a boiler that works better than Mari's, and when you come home and you raise the thermostat, whoop, in five minutes you have a warm home, well that may be different now with heat pumps, so I think there needs to be communication, and much greater engagement with users than often happened in the past.
The second point is more a political point, and has to do with democratic culture.
One big debate about universal provision of new technologies, such as central heating, in the 20th century, was: does the state have the right to impose a particular standard or a particular technology on all households, regardless of their different income levels and different choices?
And the argument was made that well, if you force people into the world of central heating, you force them to live according to a type of comfort and heat, caloric heat, that they may not either be used to or automatically prioritise, because they may have other preferences.
So really it's partly - I think that we need to think about these transitions less in a top-down way, and appreciate that housing stock is hugely diverse, people have different income and spending patterns, they have different also priorities about how important energy or the environment is, so there needs to be a little bit more, I think, of a dialogue in which the costs and benefits and also the potential sacrifices are openly addressed.
I don't see that, it's sort of - these things are easily moved into technological solutions, as if there is no politics and I think that's a big danger, given the scale of the problem, and given that we are at least for now still in a liberal democracy.
MADELEINE: Thank you, Mari, would you add anything to that?
Particularly about the point that Olly made - do people's initial reaction towards a new technology or proposition change over time?
Or do people come to like something they didn't originally like perhaps?
Or do things play out in a different way?
MARI: We know for example from user innovation studies that people tend to - they take up new technology, bring it home and then they tinker with it.
So the engineer might say here's the instructions, you have to have the switch on all the time for it to work and then the householder goes, I'll turn it off because it's too hot in the bedroom at night, so yes we do see this happening, and I do think this is one of the reasons why, for example, when trials are being done on new technologies, we need social scientists to actually go there and go, OK, what do people think about this?
Are there issues they actually are facing?
Is the technology that the engineer has designed actually going to be working in practice, in this particular setting?
So I do think that it's - of course, you know, people will always use things in a certain way, to suit their own personal circumstances.
And I also just wanted to add to that also that I was talking about having issues with my boiler, but I've also done a lot of research recently with people who are facing quite dire energy poverty in the UK, fuel poverty in the UK, and we have situations - and this is linking to also what Frank was saying, where people have the technology at home, but they don't have the means to use it either, because they can't afford it, or they don't have other access.
So I do think that in this transition, we should really - at first, we should really go and make sure that the people that are the most vulnerable in our society at the moment are going to have the best possible situation when it comes to the new technologies.
And really make sure that we treat those properties first, and we help those people first, so yes.
But in terms of technology, people will always tinker with it.
Not necessarily everyone, because not everyone is really into techy stuff, but I do know that from previous research we're seeing, particularly with things like heat pumps, for example in Finland initially it was - when heat pumps were being installed, back in the early 2000s, or even before that, a lot of the industry was saying that heat pumps were actually not going to work in a cold climate, but then actually users just got together on various different internet forums, and gave each other tips of what you can do with the specific heat pump model, how you can actually turn a switch so that actually it does work, so we saw a lot of user innovation happening in that sense, and that's why I do think that it's really important that engineers work together with social scientists to actually realise how these technologies work in practice, when they are actually then being installed in people's homes, thanks.
MADELEINE: Thank you, Mike I wondered if you wanted to pick up on any of those points, particularly the points Frank made around democracy and democratic engagement, because it occurs to me particularly with the example you gave around telly switching, if we are thinking about shaping energy demand or flexibility, you can do that in a top-down way, without people knowing much about it, or you can do it in a way that involves people and gets them to opt in.
What comments would you have on how it plays out with those different approaches, and what we can learn?
MICHAEL: Let me see.
Can I come back to previously what was said, and then come on to that one?
Because I just wanted to - the question of the wrong kind of heat, I think it's interesting, in some ways, just to turn it around and think about when you're trying to push out any kind of system like a heat pump system and thinking, for whom might this already be the right kind of heat?
And they just don't know it yet.
Whose lifestyle or living situation fits really well with this already?
Because this isn't going to happen all at once, and there will be certain people in situations where that even constant heat, potentially families with young children, people who are at home a lot, who don't want to be out, or wanting to have periods of cold, for whom this works really well, and there are negative spaces there, for which I think there is a real job for creative thinking about how you can get those sorts of narratives true, so long as they are true, how you can get those narratives out there into the public.
But coming back to the democratic point, yeah, it's a really interesting question, and clearly you could think of electricity systems or any energy systems in some ways as like a common resource, which everyone benefits if it's managed best for the good of all, although you question where you've got elements of private ownership, how those benefits are distributed, but at the same time, it's in everyone's personal rational interests to optimise as far as they're concerned.
So there's naturally - there can be a tension there.
I think the good opportunity that we're in right now with decentralisation and digitalisation in energy, for example, looking at community energy and the growth of smart local energy systems and so on, they provide ways to get the benefits of automated, quite intelligent response and flexibility to make best use of local renewables and that sort of stuff, but open up the space for local people, local communities, to get involved and so long as those processes are sufficiently inclusive, and of - as Mari was talking - a wide range, including users in vulnerable circumstances, there's a way to get those benefits in ways people feel they're directly benefitting and have some direct contribution into.
So I think things are changing from what they were in the past, this very central top-down approach, but that's not to say it's easy and I think even within those - what can on the surface appear pretty friendly community approaches, you can easily end up missing people, depending on who is involved, and running into problems with how those things are experienced.
MADELEINE: Thank you, I'm going to ask a follow-up actually to all of you, but I will start with you on this one, Mike.
I think it was Frank who mentioned people sometimes running systems in parallel, having a paraffin heater alongside a gas cooker and I wonder what that implies in terms of thinking about transition in heating for homes, so we've got the discussion at the moment about whether - how far heat pumps are appropriate for all homes, if we need to be thinking about hydrogen for heating and so on.
Are there any points that you would make about the spread of heating technologies, I suppose, from your work?
MICHAEL: I mean, it's not something I have focused on specifically, although I know that there is obviously a lot of interest in something like hybrid heat pumps, which is exactly that, stove with two fuels built in, so that you can have the rapid high temperature heat of the gas, and the low constant low temperature heat of electricity - from the heat pump.
One point I would make, because it takes me back to an advert, which I include an excerpt of in the paper I was talking about, which is for a heating system from the late 60s, I think it was, where it talks about - it's electric, but it talks about kind of a glorious background heat that it can provide using stored off peak heating, the ability to top up and give immediate heat when you need it, but the third element, and this is what I think possibly doesn't really come up enough, when we're talking about heating, is it said: fibreglass wrap insulation to make sure all that glorious heat is kept in.
I think it's all too easy, when we're thinking about - when it's framed around fuels, which is a supply term, when heating is framed around fuels, to think about that first fuel, I guess, as some people call it, of energy efficiency or reducing demand.
So I guess I just wanted to introduce that point in there, and make a call that as we see these sorts of innovative services, like heaters as service develop, not to forget that as well as the electricity going in, you've got the stuff that you can do to the fabric to stop it going out, and that's just an important reminder, I think.
MADELEINE: Frank just picking up on what Mike was just saying, are there other examples of authorities, businesses, governments, others, trying to create new stories or aspirations around home energy and how successful have they been?
Can we market this to people effectively?
FRANK: There has been a very long history of marketing.
So after the Second World War, when you had energy shortages and fuel crises, you have the utility companies and also electrical and gas appliance manufacturers, have huge advertising campaigns in which these appliances are given - a bit like Walt Disney, cartoon humanesque legs and arms, and they are bouncing around, and they are promising people, "We're going to be back, we're going to be back", so I think one thing to appreciate, even when things are hard, there have been efforts to try and turn shortages into reminders that people should aspire to more.
Now with the heat pump example, and there have been some interesting questions in the chat, people said well, is there something we can learn from other cultures perhaps?
And I think the first thing perhaps to point out is that anthropologists who have looked at energy cultures make the very simple but important observation that communities that are in the same temperate zone, in different cultures, can have radically different approaches to energy use and expectations.
So a Norwegian - people in a Norwegian town or Swedish town expect the whole home to the warm, the idea is you come back - and certainly when you have guests, the whole house has to be warm and cosy, and lots the candles everywhere, so get the right atmosphere, whereas in Japan, those of you who have been to Japan, the outdoor temperature can be the same as in this Norwegian town, but people have a much more focused and spatially fragmented approach to heat.
Hence you have the heat stove underneath the table in a sitting area.
So much more focused on the person, rather than the space of the whole house.
Now, if you are an anthropologist, you probably would add that these cultures are very, very sticky, so don't just think they will change the minute you move a different technology into the home.
And the interesting question that emerges from that is: well, what is the imagined kind of energy culture that we'll get with a heat pump?
Is there a particular non-technological sense of norms, atmospheres or ideas about what kind of warmth this produces that could be effectively marketed to promote the change?
Because I think for most people, this is a bit like sci-fi and so far removed from how they currently live and heat, that they would need lots of empty spaces to be filled in, that explained to them, or communicated to them, what kind of warmth this is.
I want to pick up one other point a person made in the chat, which is the vest.
Someone said, well you know, you could put on the vest, and then you shield your body from losing warmth.
And it's actually an important point, because it goes back to how we should calibrate changes in lifestyle alongside technological changes.
The technological innovation approach often sidelines even the possibility that perhaps we can intervene also in our daily habits, and how we dress inside the home is one.
The fire and the disappearance of the fire, and the coal fire, the coal fire wasn't just in people's homes, if you go back to movies, and you read novels, you look at paintings, in the first half of the 20th century, the coal fire is absolutely central, and there are cultural studies, scholars who even believe that - and for good reason actually, that in the mid-20th century, Britain had a particular kind of energy aesthetic, because the coal fire and the smog were central to national identity.
If you take that, and translate it to the challenge of decarbonising homes, I think it's on policymakers also to tell us, well what kind of culture will that be, in addition to the pumps?
MADELEINE: Thank you.
We have hit two o'clock so I think we'll need to bring this to a close, but I just want to ask you all a final question, and it's really to sum up, so based on what you have said, what are the things that people who are, say, designing policies or programmes to decarbonise homes, what should they know?
What should they bear in mind, what are the lessons for them, from your work?
Mari I'll start with you.
MARI: Thanks, can I just really quickly say that I also thought the clothing point was really key and CREDS is actually doing a project led by Janine Morley looking at the role of clothing, so look out for that in the next year.
I think one of the things that I think is really important to remember is let's see if we can reduce demand first, before we start to think about supply, so demand reduction is really key, and I know a lot of policymakers are fully aware of that, but I think it's good to highlight that it is actually something we need to look at first, how can we actually reduce our demand.
I think there's also one thing, we've talked a lot about heat pumps, so I do think that there can be what I call maybe unintended uses, so for example, we have seen in previous research in Finland, for example, that heat pumps are hugely popular and people have now realised, actually I can also use certain heat pumps for cooling, so in the last few summers, heat pumps actually have run out in the shops because people have a heatwave of maybe a few days, and they realise, I can actually get a heat pump to use it also for cooling.
So that's something to think about, do we want to have technology which is low carbon but then at the same time people might actually start using it more, so instead of opening windows, perhaps you might start thinking, actually I want to have the same level of air conditioning that people might have in their cars, for example.
So that's something to think about really, in terms of technologies.
And this is not to say we shouldn't think about heat pumps, but this is also saying that it could increase demand in some respects, if people start to cool their homes a lot more than what they do now.
So thanks, I'll leave it at that.
MADELEINE: Thank you, Mike, over to you.
MICHAEL: It's difficult, many things you could say.
Just looking at it from the historical side as well, and this again is speaking as someone relatively naive in this area, I suppose it's just being aware that just because something that is proposed right now seems kind of bright and new, the chances are, even if it's not identical, it will have strong common elements with something for which there will be really interesting and useful precedents within history that can be drawn on, and if we can find ways - and I'm sure this is something that Frank has thought about a lot, of making the learnings from history accessible and applicable, and saying, you know, OK, it was different in these respects but here are lessons that we can think about now, and finding ways to do that that are actually actionable, then there's a wealth of new evidence essentially that we get not for free, because that takes work to do, but certainly not at the cost of trialling out all of these things and doing the research, so there is a gold mine probably waiting to be tapped and opened in that area.
MADELEINE: Thanks very much.
Frank over to you for the last thoughts.
FRANK: Well it's my standard answer, it's read history, and look at what people did in the past.
But there is - perhaps I should end on a political point.
China, Communist China, has very, very effectively phased out wooden smoky stoves, a huge killer in the rural countryside.
India has basically failed, the reason China has managed to do it is that they have an authoritarian regime, and if the official goes down into the countryside and says, "Look you get rid of that by next year or else" then people do it.
That's one option, it's only an option for authoritarian regimes.
So the other historical lessons where we can see major transformations of how people live their daily lives with knock-on effects on technology and water use and heat, all of those have involved collaborative strategies and activities, where not just the government but city authorities work with women's associations, neighbourhood groups and architects and other experts.
So I think even if one has a great plan, it really requires thinking through the different scales of collaboration that are required, and so it's an opportunity for not just reading about people in the past, but also including them in the project.
MADELEINE: Brilliant, thank you so much.
I'll draw it to a close now, because I think people will want their lunch, but I just wanted to thank again all the panellists, this was a really interesting discussion, I personally really enjoyed it, I think we could have gone on a lot longer and I really want to say thanks to the participants, I know you had some trouble joining, so thank you for sticking with it and thanks for the chat, I found it really interesting to read, there are lots of great examples and ideas in there as well as questions.
I hope you enjoyed it, we will have two more events in this series in the new year, but on that note, I will say thank you, happy Christmas and goodbye!
From seatbelts to smoking, there are a wealth of examples of significant widespread behaviour change in our recent past. And when it comes to using energy in our homes, the same is true - what’s considered normal today would be unrecognisable to people 100 or even 50 years ago. What can we learn from the past when it comes to decarbonising homes today?
This event was the third event in the Making the Switch Towards Cleaner, Greener Homes event series. Explore the four other events in this series by visiting the event home page.
Madeleine leads Nesta’s mission to create A Sustainable Future, which focuses on decarbonisation and economic recovery. Her team is setting up innovation projects and partnerships exploring how to reduce carbon emissions from homes and, in the wake of COVID-19, how to boost productivity and help people find good work. She previously led Nesta’s work on inclusive innovation, researching ways to create an equitable, innovation-led economy in the UK. She has published widely on innovation practices that promote sustainability and social impact. Before joining Nesta in 2014, Madeleine specialised in social research and programme evaluation, helping charities and public bodies to understand and improve their impact. She has worked across a wide range of public policy areas including learning, skills and employability, public health, housing and neighbourhood regeneration.
Dr Mari Martiskainen is a Senior Research Fellow and Co-Director at Sussex Energy Group (SEG), based at Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK. She is also the Theme lead for Equity and Justice at UK-wide Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS). Mari is a social scientist with a specific interest in sustainability transitions, especially in relation to a just transition to a net zero society. Her current research focuses on the intersections between fuel and transport poverty. Mari's previous research has focused on energy justice implications on low carbon pathways; social innovation in addressing fuel poverty; the role of users in low carbon transitions; energy efficiency policies in buildings; and innovation and engagement in community energy. Mari has published widely and worked with a range of stakeholders and partners, including NGOs, policymakers and community organisations.
Frank Trentmann is a historian, author and speaker. He is Professor of History at Birkbeck College/University of London and also at the Centre for Consumer Society Research, Helsinki. His prize-winning book Empire of Things follows the global rise of consumption from the Renaissance to the present, and has appeared in many languages. He was the Principal Investigator of the AHRC research project on Material Cultures of Energy and is the author of "The Evolution of Energy Demand: Politics, Daily life and Public Housing, Britain 1920s-70s" (Historical Journal, 2017).