The Transition to Clean Energy: Are People Living in Island Communities Ready for Smart Grids and Demand Response?

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The Transition to Clean Energy: Are People Living in Island Communities Ready for Smart Grids and Demand Response?

Also available for download in Energies (open access).

Title: The Transition to Clean Energy: Are People Living in Island Communities Ready for Smart Grids and Demand Response?

Authors: Dana Abi Ghanem and Tracey Crosbie.

Centre for Sustainable Engineering, School of Computing, Engineering and Digital Technologies, Teesside University, Middlesbrough TS1 3BX, UK.

Abstract: Islands are widely recognised as ideal pilot sites that can spearhead the transition to clean energy and development towards a sustainable and healthy society. One of the assumptions underpinning this notion is that island communities are more ready to engage with smart grids (SGs) than people on the mainland. This is believed to be due to the high costs of energy on islands and the idea that the sense of community and collective action is stronger on islands than on the mainland. This paper presents findings from a survey conducted to assess people’s perception of, and readiness to engage with, SG and demand response (DR) in the communities of three islands taking part in a H2020 project called REACT. The main objective of the survey, conducted in 2020, was to inform the recruitment of participants in the project, which is piloting different technologies required for SGs and DR with communities on the three islands. The results show that many island residents are motivated to take part in SG, to engage with energy saving, and are willing to change some energy-related behaviours in their homes. However, the results also indicate that levels of ownership of, and knowledge and familiarity with, the SG and DR related technologies are extremely low, suggesting that the expected uptake of DR in islands might not be as high as anticipated. This brings into question the readiness of island dwellers for the SG, their role in the deployment of such schemes more widely and the validity of the assumptions often made about island communities. This has significant implications for the design of SGs and DR solutions for islands, including devoting sufficient efforts to build knowledge and awareness of the SG, investing in demonstration projects for that purpose and tailoring interventions based on island communities’ motivations.