22 January 2014
'Children, parents and home energy use: Exploring motivations and limits to energy demand reduction', a paper written by UCL-Energy Principal Research Associate Lai Fong Chiu, and PhD student Mike Fell is to be published in the February 2014 edition of Energy Policy.
While almost 30% of UK households include children, little research has attempted to present children's perspectives on home energy use. This study used focus groups with children and parents at two primary (elementary) schools in London, UK, to explore home energy use and energy feedback. Energy was found to be a little-discussed subject at home. Children derived more motivation to save energy from responsibility conferred by school activities than other (e.g. environmental) concerns, and some connected energy saving with dangers of using electricity (e.g. fire). Material and social constraints (e.g. access to outside space, parents' environmental attitudes) meant that it was sometimes difficult for children to save energy even when motivated. However, parents showed greater inclination to pay attention to energy saving when framed as supporting their child's learning than as a financial or environmental concern. Children were disinclined to reduce energy-consuming activities such as watching television, and while parents complained about children's energy use most saw it as a low priority issue. Policy implications of these findings are considered, and the approach employed is argued to be an effective way of investigating children's perceptions around energy use.