Elizabeth Leighton's story

Elizabeth Leighton's story

Elizabeth travelled to the US to investigate what motivated home owners and landlords to install energy-saving upgrades in their houses, in order to cut costs and harmful emissions.

The Fellowship

Elizabeth analysed what the US experience, recently expanded with funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, could offer in terms of lessons for the UK and Scotland. She visited five exemplar state and municipal programmes in Vermont, Maine, Arizona, Berkeley, and Oregon. The purpose of the Fellowship was to seek an understanding of what motivates homeowners and landlords, and how governments at all levels can use their powers and influence to encourage change. Based on these study visits, Elizabeth made a series of recommendations for government policy, programme design, and utility regulation. 

The Results

Since her return Elizabeth has used the results of the Fellowship to inform WWF’s advocacy work on UK and Scottish domestic energy efficiency programmes. She presented her findings at the Sustainable Scotland Network annual conference and also contributed an article summarising her Fellowship to the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council. 

The Scottish Government has now committed significant funding to a National Retrofit Programme, which will focus on fuel-poor areas first. It will be local authority-led and delivered on a neighbourhood, street-by-street basis. This very much chimes with the results of the Fellowship report, which noted the strong influence of working with local and peer groups to encourage uptake of energy efficiency measures. 

The Energy Saving Trust and local authorities have been very impressed with the speed and quality of delivery in the US programmes. In one example Elizabeth visited, the homeowner’s energy upgrade was completed within two weeks of receiving the first phone call promoting the scheme!