The success or failure of energy efficiency schemes directed at domestic consumers depends in large part on effective marketing. Previous evidence has indicated relatively low take-up of such schemes among older people, who form households with some of the highest levels of fuel poverty. Understanding the reasons why those who most need such interventions have not been effectively targeted is vital to designing future programmes; in particular, to what extent the publicity materials have communicated the key concepts and benefits to the intended audiences. Much information is still provided through printed leaflets, yet there has been little research as to whether this is an optimal medium or what works well. Such knowledge has the potential to inform the development of more effective resources in the future.
Key research Question
The research investigated the promotional literature distributed by the Scottish Government’s Warm Deal Programme and the Central Heating Programme to assess how far one target population (older people at risk of fuel poverty) understood the core arguments and were persuaded they could benefit from participation. On the basis of the findings, it aimed to test if alternative materials would prove more successful in reaching this demographic.
Summary of activity
Questionnaire surveys were carried out to examine the impact of grant leaflets on people over 60 likely to be fuel poor and living in Edinburgh. Online questionnaires were also completed by representatives of organisations working with older people or engaged in energy efficiency advice projects. Using the feedback from the questionnaires, a revised leaflet addressing a range of identified barriers to the take-up of grants was produced and tested in a series of workshops, with further feedback gathered from participants.
Analysis of the data found that a large majority of respondents did not think the leaflets were clear on a number of important elements, particularly when it came to understanding that installation grants could help reduce fuel bills or how much respondents might have to pay. The research found that both groups of interviewees considered the revised leaflet, with prominent placing of important messages and information aimed at addressing barriers to participation, an overall improvement on the original leaflet.
Research with a larger sample of older people is needed to see if the conclusions of this study hold true at scale. This should include a range of variables, including rural locations, off-grid households and different income brackets and energy consumption levels, as well as subgroups such as older people from BME communities, those who have visual impairments or other disabilities and those with low literacy levels. It should continue to investigate these groups’ knowledge of fuel poverty and energy efficiency measures, as well as other productive methods of communication.
Grant literature aimed at older people should be simplified and the aims, costs and benefits made more visible. A larger text size is also important. However, it may be useful to consider whether targeting those in contact with this audience would also be effective, for example, landlords or family members.