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Disruptive and Uncertain: Policy Makers’ Perceptions on UK Heat Decarbonisation


The decarbonisation of heating represents a transformative challenge for many countries. The UK’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target requires the removal of fossil fuel combustion from heating in just three decades. A greater understanding of policy processes linked to system transformations is expected to be of value for understanding systemic change; how policy makers perceive policy issues can impact on policy change with knock-on effects for energy system change. This article builds on the literature considering policy maker perceptions and focuses on the issue of UK heat policy. Using qualitative analysis, we show that policy makers perceive heat decarbonisation as disruptive, technological pathways are seen as deeply uncertain and heat decarbonisation appears to offer policy makers little ‘up-side’. Perceptions are bounded by uncertainty, affected by concerns over negative impacts, influenced by external influences and relate to ideas of continuity. Further research and evidence on optimal heat decarbonisation and an adaptive approach to governance could support policy makers to deliver policy commensurate with heat decarbonisation. However even with reduced uncertainty and more flexible governance, the perceptions of disruption to consumers mean that transformative heat policy may remain unpopular for policy makers, potentially putting greenhouse mitigation targets at risk of being missed.

Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: United Kingdom

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