New deliverables explore attitudes to energy communities

Reports on experimental studies on the psychology of support for and willingness to join energy communities and energy citizenship

23rd January 2024

How do energy community set-ups influence citizens' willingness to support and join them? Does a sense of collective agency motivate energy citizenship? And what conditions cause positive environmental spill-over effects?

These were the research strands explored by teams from the psychology departments of the University of Leipzig and University of Groningen during a series of lab studies undertaken as part of EC². In the studies, researchers explored the human side of the energy transition by looking at how people's attitudes and behaviours towards a sustainable energy transition are influenced by how energy communities are set up. Data was gathered from over 10,000 participants who reacted to various scenarios about energy community set-up and citizen behaviour.

The resulting deliverables, Report on experimental studies on energy communities: Effects of energy community set-ups on support for and willingness to join energy communities and Report on experimental lab studies on energy citizenship: Energy community set-ups, energy visions and collective agency as predictors of energy citizenship and pro-environmental spillover, report in detail on the studies and what their conclusions may mean for supporting energy communities and fostering energy citizenship.

Key Findings

The studies provide clues as to how energy community participation and energy citizenship can be strengthened, with important lessons for policymakers. We’ve published a full policy brief drawing out the policy implications of this research, but here are some of the the studies’ key takeaways at a glance:

Set-up matters:The findings suggest that the design of energy communities does impact people's support for and willingness to get involved: importantly, study participants were more willing to support energy communities when these were set up and organised by community members, or in collaboration with municipalities rather than unilaterally set up and organised by municipalities. .

The power of a positive vision: Researchers found that when individuals are encouraged to imagine a future where our energy systems are both fair and sustainable, they are more likely to actively engage in the transition.

Diversity and representation in energy communities: The studies found that, in the Netherlands, men were more willing to join a proposed community energy initiative compared to women, independent of how the energy community was presented in terms of diversity of the board members. This is in line with evidence showing that CEIs are often led by men. Importantly, the study found that overall women felt it less efficacious to join an energy community. More research is needed on the gender dynamics of energy citizenship and energy communities.

Identifying and highlighting positive behaviour trends towards sustainable energy production and usage might help encourage energy citizenship - but more research is needed: In one experiment, when participants read information about an increasing number of Europeans getting involved in the energy transition this resulted in higher levels of energy citizenship compared to those who read texts about stagnating involvement. However, none of the other experiments showed the same positive effect on energy citizenship, thus further research is needed.

The studies offer important insights towards creating successful interventions to encourage citizens’ involvement in the energy transition, but it’s clear that further research on this topic is urgently needed in order to find out how to motivate people within the EU and beyond to participate in a just and sustainable energy transition.

Explore our full policy brief based on the research, and download the full deliverables on our downloads page.

Read the deliverables