Preparing for REACT – How much do islanders know about the energy transition?

Are REACT’s Pilot Islands’ residents ready for an electricity network that reacts to changes in usage (known as smart grids) and to change their usage to match the supply of electricity (known as demand response)? This question was asked during the REACT project and the full answer can be found here and, among other results, it was found that people on the Pilot Islands simply weren’t very aware of either! This raised the question, how aware are people on the REACT Follower Islands of Gotland (Sweden), Lesvos (Greece), La Réunion (France) and Mallorca (Spain)? Do people on these islands have higher levels of energy transition tool awareness than was found on the pilots? Finding the answer to this question is important, even vital, for the successful development of the plans to reproduce the REACT solutions to these follower islands.

To find an answer to this, an exploratory set of interviews was conducted on Gotland, Lesvos and Mallorca while a survey was employed in La Réunion. Responses were gathered from residents on these islands gauging not only their awareness and understandings but also their attitudes towards both general energy concepts as well as tools integral to the REACT energy transition solutions.  The results found that the residents of the Follower Islands felt they were familiar with concepts like saving energy as well as managing and storing energy. However, this familiarity disappeared when they were asked about how much they knew about specific energy transition tools like Demand Response and local energy communities (collective energy actions by citizens, local authorities and small businesses to generate social and environmental benefits rather than financial profits). Less than a third of those that took part in the interviews and survey were familiar with either of these transition tools which, while being in line with findings on the Pilot islands, is a concern.

The figure above shows a comparison between the awareness for the concept of Saving energy versus Demand response.

If awareness wasn’t high for these tools, how did that impact people’s attitudes towards them? Here the results varied by island. On the island of Gotland, where awareness of local energy communities was relatively high, most people were not interested in joining such a community. Interestingly enough, on the other three Follower Islands, where initial awareness was much lower than on Gotland, more than half of those asked stated they would consider joining an energy community. Willingness to use a Demand Response tool varied by Follower Island but on all islands a majority of those that took part stated they would consider using a Demand Response solution despite most having not known about it prior to the interview or survey.

How many of those that took part in the interviews or survey open to using a demand response software.

An additional element of the interviews and survey was a question which tried to evaluate how the islanders saw their island’s energy management in a decade. On this question the islanders were given a chance to describe how they thought their island would look using their own words. While there were a number of pessimistic views on the islands the majority of the islanders were positive about their island’s energy future.

Islanders’ views on their island’s future energy management.

Taken as a whole, the results from the interviews and survey of the Follower Islands give both reasons for consideration and optimism for how the REACT solutions will be accepted. As was found on the Pilot Islands, the lack of awareness of some of the key features of the solutions will need to be dealt with when the plans to adapt and reproduce them for the Follower Islands are being developed. The responses appear to show the value of increasing awareness as well, once islanders learned about DR and energy communities the majority were willing to give them a try. This indicates that there is a clear need for a strong information spreading component in the REACT plans developed.

Using these new insights into the Follower Islands, these plans to adapt and reproduce REACT’s solutions can help REACT be a part of these islands’ positive energy futures!

The full findings from the interviews and survey on the REACT Follower islands will be published soon, so be sure to check back in REACT’s Publications and Results.