Columnists: Sea Rotmann, Operating Agent HTR Task (DSM TCP by IEA)

Published on: 1 Aug 2019

How to reach the hard-to-reach?

Do you work with energy users that are hard to reach? Who do you think of first when you hear the term hard-to-reach (HTR) energy users? Vulnerable users in the residential sector or energy users that are geographically remote or maybe ones that are hard to motivate or engage? How big an audience do you think this HTR group would encompass if we looked at all the different users various “Behaviour Changers” view as hard-to-reach?

We are looking to answer these, and many other questions in a new global research collaboration on hard-to-reach energy users in the residential and commercial sectors. It follows on the highly successful DSM Task 24, the first global research collaboration on behaviour change in Demand-Side Management DSM) and falls under the DSM Technology Collaboration Programme by the International Energy Agency.

Task 24 and recent research have shown us that behavioural-oriented policy initiatives are rather limited, and often confined to experimental settings and utility-driven programmes. We believe that there may be a significant percentage of the human population that is currently not engaged or informed by our many efforts to elicit change in their energy-efficient technology uptake and energy consumption. This is even more so the case once you expand from hard-to-reach individuals and groups in the residential, to those in the commercial sector, and across all fuels and energy services, including mobility. This, potentially very large energy user group is the focus of this new international research collaboration.

As there are many different, sometimes conflicting definitions of what constitutes a “hard-to-reach” energy user, we have created this broad working definition to start our research from:

In this Task, a hard-to-reach energy user is an energy user from the residential and commercial sectors who uses any type of energy or fuel and energy services, including mobility, and who is typically either hard-to-reach physically, underserved, or hard to engage or motivate, for a variety of reasons. These could include lack of access to information, lack of government or industry policies and programmes targeting such user groups, lack of financial means, lack of confidence, vulnerability, or being a new type of user (e.g. new technology owner) who has not yet been identified or engaged by the relevant agency.”

This research will provide country participants with the opportunity to learn and share successful approaches how to identify and engage “hard-to-reach” (HTR) energy users. We will facilitate the development of robust social science-based guidance for designing programmes that are tailored to specific HTR audiences. And we will help identify effective approaches from existing programmes to increase uptake among specific HTR segments. The main impact expected from this Task is to develop a greater understanding who the HTR energy user group is and how to better engage these users with well-designed and targeted interventions.

We currently have national experts from the UK, US, Canada, Spain, New Zealand and Sweden participating in this Task. We hope to expand on our large Task 24 expert platform and to connect and engage as many experts in policy, research, industry and NGOs who are focusing on this user group. We are also very interested in identifying the Middle Actors who connect to energy users via other channels, such as health, social justice, immigration, education etc. Please join us to reach the hard-to-reach by filling in this short survey!


Other columns by Sea Rotmann