Beyond climate, culture and comfort in European preferences for low-carbon heat

Benjamin K. Sovacool, Christina Demski, Lance Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


It is imperative that climate, energy, and sustainability policy researchers and practitioners grapple with the difficulty of decarbonizing heat, which remains the largest single end-use energy service worldwide. In this study, based on a comparative assessment of five original and representative national surveys in Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (N = 10,109), we explore public attitudes of household heat decarbonization in Europe. We explore how people conceive of the purposes of low-carbon heat, their preferences for particular forms of heat supply, and their (at times odd) practices of heat consumption and temperature settings. The data reveal four significant challenges to heat decarbonization that are consistent across geographies: 1) High satisfaction with existing, often fossil fuel based, heating systems; 2) Varying and divergent preferences and expectations for thermal comfort; 3) Householders unlikely to change their heating system in the near-term, in part driven by low familiarity and knowledge of alternative systems; and 4) heat satisfaction appears lower as the fuel mix is decarbonized. The paper concludes by connecting these findings with policy and research implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102200
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021


  • Cross-national survey
  • Energy services and practices
  • Heat as a service
  • Heat decarbonization
  • Residential heating
  • Social acceptance of heat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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