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Rethinking renewables

5 January, 2024

The Autumn budget statement’s announcement of monetary incentives for residents affected by new electricity infrastructure, where those living near pylons and electricity substations will receive up to £1,000 per year off their electricity bills, has sparked scepticism, and looks to face considerable challenges in achieving its objective of improving public support for much needed investment in new ways of distributing and delivering power to homes and businesses, in particular to support the transition to electric vehicles.  

It’s an interesting insight into how to move public opinion and shape behaviour. Surely everyone wants lower energy bills? But the Behavioural Insights Team has cautioned that monetary incentives may backfire by creating cognitive dissonance – essentially, offering to pay people for something strongly suggests that it is a bad thing that they need to be compensated for, rather than a positive change – and that it detracts from the community benefits that also come with the scheme . They advocate for a more vocal and inclusive support system, stressing the need for a broader public conversation to explain the complexities of the renewable energy transition, including the key message that upgrading and building new infrastructure is required to deliver net zero.  

Amidst these challenges, Octopus Energy’s Fan Club emerges as an innovative model that promotes renewables as something people should want, rather than be compensated for tolerating. Launched in 2021, this ‘people-led’ energy club connects small local renewable projects through a unified tech solution, creating a virtual giant wind farm. By providing real-time, cheaper electricity to residents near active turbines, the Fan Club exemplifies the benefits of bringing renewables closer to consumers and creating excitement about it, reshaping the energy generation market.  

Navigating the transition to renewable energy is not just about compensating for inconveniences, it’s about turning the transition into a shared aspiration. The Octopus Fan Club shows the positive impact of a ‘people-led’ approach; a model that can build a future where renewable energy is embraced by communities and aligns with broader environmental goals. 

By Bertie Bateman

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