We Have to Think of Ways to Change Our Attitude to Energy Use and What We Need; Dr Dimitrios Xenias Discusses His Research into Environmental Psychology and the Need to Understand Public Perceptions on Energy Use

Article excerpt

A LOT has been written in recent years about the environment, carbon dioxide, and pollution. We have developed a technological civilisation that serves our needs, and produces waste and emissions as a result. But behind every building, car and product, there are human beings. It is not machines that consume energy or emit carbon dioxide - our behaviour is ultimately responsible.

Understanding how people behave in respect of their surroundings and natural resources, and what may motivate them to change their consumption or travel habits, for instance, is at the heart of environmental psychology.

It is important to know how people relate to their surroundings, how they perceive natural resources and why they may choose to use or conserve them. This way we can do more to tackle the challenges of our times.

Take energy use, for example.

There is much talk of the need to bridge the UK "energy gap" caused by ageing infrastructure and increased energy demand. Options include, among others, the construction of new conventional power stations, increase the share or renewable generation, and "smartening" the electricity grid. "Smart" electricity grids employ technologies for improved resource management and communication between electricity demand and supply. Producing more energy than required results in energy waste and associated CO2 emissions; less energy production can result in blackouts. Balancing energy generation and demand is crucial to maintain adequate energy provision without wasting resources. However, this is hard to achieve with today's ageing energy infrastructure.

"Smarter" electricity grids will better understand how much energy is produced where and when, where it is most needed, and how to deliver it most efficiently.

However, these technologies alone would only deliver limited energy savings. Understanding how consumers choose to use energy and why, could be combined with "smarter" technologies, to increase energy savings. …