Fatemeh Ghasemi – Student blog ENTRANCE Learning Communities

2 oktober 2023

How policymakers can improve social acceptance in the energy transition

For the last few months, I have been working as a junior researcher, at Kenniscentrum NoorderRuimte, on my thesis and I recently completed my graduation assignment from the Master’s study program in Energy for Society. A group of students collaborates with research specialists, coaches, and clients at this research center. The researchers and coaches motivated the students and provided answers to their inquiries, while the client presented a real-world issue for the students to solve. My client for this graduation assignment was the project; Making City European Horizon 2020. It was my task to construct, evaluate, and provide recommendations for policymakers on improving the social acceptance of heat pumps in Groningen Province, the Netherlands.

Heat Pumps: A Step Forward in the Energy Transition

The world is witnessing an unprecedented energy crisis, and the need to shift toward renewable sources of energy has never been more pressing. In this scenario, heat pumps emerge as a critical technology that can play a significant role in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change.

In my master’s thesis, I conducted research in the Groningen metropolitan area, the Netherlands, to investigate the social acceptance of heat pumps in the region. The study aimed to provide recommendations to policymakers on how to increase the social acceptance of heat pumps. I used the Q methodology to evaluate the views and perceptions of local society concerning their direct or indirect experience with heat pumps in their own homes or in their neighborhood.

Potential Challenges

The study found that people in Groningen Province have different values and opinions regarding the installation of heat pumps in their homes. Three main viewpoints emerged from the factor analysis of the 20 Q-sorts with Q method software, which are “Realistic and positive users”, “Hesitant neighbors “and ‘’Enthusiastic advocates’’. “Enthusiastic advocates” were very positive about the technology and believed that it was a step forward in the energy transition. On the other hand,” Realistic users” and “hesitant neighbors” expressed some concerns about this technology. The study also found that there is a significant level of public opposition to the implementation of heat pumps in houses in Groningen Province. The main reasons for this opposition are the high costs associated with the installation and maintenance of heat pumps, the perceived lack of reliability of the technology, and the fear of the unknown.

Overcoming Social Resistance Through Policy

The study suggests that policymakers take a proactive approach to address the challenges of social resistance towards heat pump installations in homes by reducing costs, educating the public on the benefits and reliability of the technology, and engaging in communication with local communities to address their concerns and fears. For example, there is this perception from some people that heat pumps are only suitable for new houses, and it can be clarified and showcased in raising awareness actions that this is not true.

In conclusion, this study highlights the importance of understanding the social acceptance of heat pumps and provides recommendations to policymakers on how to increase their social acceptance. We must continue to work towards creating a future where renewable sources of energy are widely accepted and widely used, and heat pumps can play a critical role in this transition.

A blog by: Fatemeh Ghasemi, Master student Energy for Society – 2023