(J.R.Snape, P.J.Boait and R.M.Rylatt, Will domestic consumers take up the renewable heat incentive? – An analysis of the barriers to heat pump adoption using agent-based modelling. Energy Policy 85 (2015), pp 32-38 – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421515002013)
This article is about the UK’s renewable heat incentive, which since April 2014 has offered a per-kWh subsidy. The paper takes as its starting point the fact that during the first five months of the scheme, take-up of support for air and ground-sourced heat pumps was substantially lower than predicted. The authors use an agent-based model to assess why this might be.
Agent-based approaches are probably essential in moving to realistic representations of energy efficiency behaviour in economic models. However, my reading of this paper suggests that the values given to the model’s parameters are not especially empirically based. Therefore, the paper’s conclusion – that “there is a tipping point [of the height of non-financial barriers] beyond which adoption is likely to fall very sharply… the RHI’s complex and stringent compliance requirements for home inspections and heat emitter performance may well have driven adoption past this point” – seems too far-reaching for the results reported.
The paper quotes a recent study by Ipsos-Mori (Homeowners’ willingness to take up more efficient heating systems, 2013) which, according to Snape et al., “found from consumer workshops that when asked to choose between home heating methods, it was the technology itself that mainly motivated 54% of consumer decisions, whereas financial factors such as grants and running costs drove 37% of decisions”. This has similarities with the results of the paper on the same choice in Germany by Decker and Menrad about which I blogged recently (https://paulhhodson.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/thomas-decker-and-klaus-menrad-on-why-people-choose-one-heating-system-rather-than-another/). In that paper, “evaluation of the fuel” and “ecological attitude” were more important drivers than expectations of future fuel cost trends.