Energy is a pressing problem for Glaswegians – but they don’t know where to turn for solutions

In September of last year Ed Miliband made front page news with his pledge to introduce an energy price freeze – not everyone agreed with his solution, but there was little dispute that the energy question should be top of the public agenda.

Future City Research

Research conducted by the Glasgow University Media Group funded as part of the Future City Programme explored the behaviours and attitudes of Glaswegians in relation to energy within this media and political environment. The headline finding was that people living in the city see energy as a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.
Respondents recounted stories of elderly relatives choosing between eating and heating, whilst students hung out in libraries to save on energy bills. Some questioned the ethics of profiteering from a basic necessity. In other groups, discussions turned to climate change – why hasn’t it been in the media so much recently? – And concerns about the security of our supply at both global and national levels.

Priorities

Pricing was the priority for most people but there was a general consensus that any solution should address the issues of climate change mitigation and security of supply too – in spite of concerns about costs in the short-term, the large majority thought investment in renewable energies was the answer. For some it was simply a ‘no brainer’.

Media coverage and response

Because it was thought to be such an important issue, the media coverage of debate around energy policy – which one respondent described as a ‘bombardment’ – was welcomed. It was considered about time that the activities of the energy companies were put under the spotlight, and that solutions were discussed.
The combination of rising prices and media reports heightened this issue – and many of our respondents felt compelled to take some action in response. There was a strong desire to get more information on things like how to switch to greener energy, or better ways to be energy efficient in work and at home.

Lost opportunity

But amongst this ‘bombardment’ of information on energy, trusted guidance on how to do anything other than switch suppliers – which most thought didn’t reap any real rewards – was thin on the ground. While most had heard of energy efficiency schemes, info coming from energy companies wasn’t trusted and it was thought to be deliberately confusing. Politicians were perceived to be bickering over policy while awareness of government initiatives was really low. Attempts to source companies providing energy from (the highest level of) renewable sources was a minefield.

The good news is this heightened concern creates opportunities– people care about energy, and they are open to making changes to their behaviour. But they need a trusted and visible guide. It is the perfect time for Glasgow City Council to fill this gap.