Issues of race, class and gender were missing in a 2021 government evaluation of the ECO scheme, highlighting a critical gap in our understanding of how different communities respond to UK energy policy. This project will address this gap by exploring how social relations influence applications for energy grants, using Asian-background households in Bradford, West Yorkshire as a case study.

Our research for the UKERC-funded ‘Whole Person Whole Place’ project has found that homeowners from low-income Asian households apply for ECO almost 12 times more than expected. This finding challenges current assumptions in the UK that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are ‘hard to reach’ and disengaged from energy policy.

Asking why people from this community are applying for energy grants in higher numbers offers insights for designing effective policies for specific social groups, as well as helping to identify some of the factors that shape engagement with energy policy.


We will use semi-structured interviews and focus groups to explore how social relations shape applications for energy grants. We will conduct this research in three stages:

  1. Interview key stakeholders about energy grant applications and the factors that drive the high number of applications in that community.
  2. Hold focus groups with grant applicants in the community about their experiences with the application process. This will include asking how they heard about the grants and if there were any networks that supported them through the application process.
  3. Conduct individual interviews with a range of applicants to a) confirm the extent to which the themes that emerged from the first round of interviews and the focus groups were representative and b) develop personal stories of how social relations influenced their application process.


We will hold a workshop with institutional stakeholders after we have completed the interviews to share our findings and explore how they may be better incorporated into energy policy. Our findings and the outcomes of the stakeholder workshop will be summarised in a briefing for community and institutional stakeholders. The research team will also co-author a journal article based on our findings, which builds on the framework we established as part of the ‘Whole Person Whole Place’ project.