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GREEN FAMILY VALUES: GRANDPARENTS SUPPORT THEIR GRANDCHILDREN'S VIEWS ABOUT SUSTAINABLE LIVING - WHILE BUSY PARENTS FOCUS ON COST SAVINGS

Intergenerational Research --tea-and-zoom-static.pngNorthern Powergrid hosts family Zoom chats to uncover attitudes to energy and sustainability across three generations.

  • Insightful findings from everyday family conversations reveal how attitudes to the energy transition are shifting across three generations of the same family.
  • Young people are often the drivers of environmental behaviour change – such as the importance of electric vehicles – and seek to bring older family members along with them.
  • Most older people interviewed happy to pay more to help younger generations tackle environmental problems but are concerned about immediate affordability.
  • Families want to see more impartial advice available about big change in the home to support climate action – such as benefits of solar panels or driving an electric car. 
  • Financial benefit and convenience identified as huge motivators of environmental action at home.
  • Research forms part of Northern Powergrid’s drive to hear from a wide range of voices to support its future business planning. 

New research from Northern Powergrid, the electricity network operator for the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, shines a light on the differing attitudes to climate change and the energy transition in families across the region. 

The research found that COVID-19 has slowed the pace of family life and meant many are reflecting on the need for action on climate change. It also highlighted differences in attitudes across generations. Young people tend to be the drivers of change, while their parents often want to drive change but are often too busy or cost-conscious to implement environmental action into everyday lives. Older generations are happy to pay more to help younger generations tackle environmental problems but are concerned about immediate affordability, especially during and potentially post COVID-19.

Northern Powergrid has been leading engaging conversations with local families as part of its future business planning process to understand how attitudes and behaviours shift across generations. 

The research gathered eights families across three generations and 15 locations – for a relaxed Zoom conversation on a number of environmental hot topics including perspectives on climate change, plastic consumption, what net zero really means and green technology such as electric cars and heating. The conversations also debated the best approach to managing and investing in the electricity network that powers everyday life. 

Families were made up of a mix of age, gender, race and geography and also covered a mix of rural vs. urban households and involved homeowners, private renters and those renting social housing providing a good range of attitudes from across the region. Findings will be used to support Northern Powergrid’s business plan development for 2023-2028.

“The future of energy effects every one of the 8 million people our network supports every day. So it’s important we listen to the voice of the families we support, and understand their attitudes towards sustainability, as part of our future plans,” explained Siobhan Barton, head of stakeholder relations at Northern Powergrid. 

“This research is a first of a kind for us, it is inspiring and eye-opening to connect directly with families in our operating area. The ideas will now be integrated into our ongoing business planning to influence the actions we take in building our business for a greener future. We thank the families who took part for welcoming us into their conversations.”

This research will inform Northern Powergrid’s future plans, and the operator has also produced and published online a top ten findings paper and blog about the research. Key next steps for the operator when communicating with its customers include focusing on affordability and convenience as big barriers to change, seizing opportunities to educate on ways to accelerate transformation and on the change that is already happening, and providing incentives in a range of forms including monetary, convenience and emotional.

Critically, the family conversations highlighted a number of key areas – such as electric vehicles and decarbonisation of heat – where government intervention is needed. It highlighted that individuals and families must see both a financial benefit and convenience in order for these changes to happen.

The research supported the idea that social media is particularly important to younger generations, and it should inspire and empower people to make environmental change. Individuals also want to be provided with independent, objective and expert information to guide them on purchasing low carbon technology and how to utilise renewable energy.
The research has been part of an engagement drive that has seen tens of thousands of stakeholders feed into future plans that will see Northern Powergrid’s become a critical enabler for net zero and climate action in the coming years. 

This research, accompanied with a wider reaching ED2 engagement campaign, will inform Northern Powergrid’s business planning from 2023-2028. All families and businesses are encouraged to review the network operator’s upcoming proposals which will shape the energy future of the region and the electricity network that will power their lives. 

Customers will be able to review the draft plan, published in July 2021, then feed in to refining the final plan before the end of the year. More information on the key planning areas can be found here.