Abstract for: Social diffusion of energy efficiency programs among disadvantaged communities: Community learnings and strategy co-development

Climate change is making it increasingly challenging for households to maintain comfortable and healthy living environments. Events including heatwaves, cold snaps, floods, and energy supply disruptions are becoming more frequent as climate change progresses, increasing the burden on households to manage and mitigate these stressors. Disadvantaged households are at disproportionately greater risk from these events due to their limited resources; however, energy efficiency programs (EEPs) can help ease this burden through subsidized home upgrades that are free or low-cost to residents, including home energy assessments, insulation and weatherization, heat pumps, rooftop solar, and energy-efficient appliances. Participation in these programs is low among disadvantaged communities, yet they have the most to gain. Our project seeks to demonstrate an innovative approach to increasing participation in EEPs through systems thinking, social network analysis, and co-developing social diffusion strategies within a pilot community in Lowell, Massachusetts. Preliminary results indicate strong community social networks that could but currently do not facilitate social diffusion because of multiple barriers including distrust of government, language isolation, and lack of awareness. Culturally relevant strategies for activating social diffusion have been co-developed with community organizations and will be tested for their potential to accelerate EEP participation and other climate-resilient behaviors.