Energy use in social housing residents in the UK and recommendations for developing energy behaviour change interventions

Rebecca J. Hafner, Sabine Pahl, Rory V. Jones, Alba Fuertes

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This paper presents a qualitative exploration of domestic energy consumption practices in the UK social housing sector, and perceived effectiveness of varying intervention techniques in motivating energy reductions. The study was conducted using a sample of N = 20 social housing residents, who had recently taken part in a ‘serious game’ energy behaviour change intervention trial, thus making them uniquely positioned to provide such insight and feedback on these issues. A series of one-on-one open-ended interview sessions was conducted in residents’ homes at the end of the intervention period, using an open-ended discussion framework. Thematic analysis revealed that residents were highly engaged with the topic of energy saving, but that several psychological barriers existed which prevented many residents from changing them behaviour. In line with the Theory of Planned Behaviour and the Norm Activation Model, these barriers included lack of awareness of the issue, action inertia, and perceived lack of behavioural control. Some residents did make savings following the trial, and our interviews provide useful insight into their decision making and behaviour change processes, including evidence for cross-contextual spillover effects, where residents made savings in other areas. However overall, the serious gaming approach did not inspire engagement from the target population, who frequently mentioned lack of time and/or desire to use overly ‘technical’ solutions for energy savings. Recommendations for ongoing intervention development are discussed, including preference for tailored non-technical visualisation tools and less time intensive versions of the game, and implications for future energy policy development are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119643
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date9 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Behaviour change
  • Decision-making
  • Energy saving
  • Social housing
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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