Journal article

Towards a practice-theoretical classification of sustainable energy consumption initiatives: Insights from social scientific energy research in 30 European countries

Energy consumption Greenhouse gas mitigation Consumer behaviour Household consumption

Reducing residential energy use and related CO2 emissions across society requires approaches that understand energy demand as dependent on the performance of a range of interconnected social practices, which includes aspects of timing, location and material contexts. However, current energy policy and change initiatives often rely on a somewhat narrow combination of rational consumer choice models, efficiency measures and information-based behavioral change theory, thus falling short on anticipated reductions. Insights from the ENERGISE project highlight the merits of a practice-theoretical approach to social scientific energy research that explicitly recognizes complex interactions in the social organization of everyday life. The paper demonstrates how such an approach provides knowledge on variations in energy use across households, social groups and societies and how these are (not) acknowledged in the problem framings of dominant energy policies and change initiatives. Reflecting on experiences made during a large-scale comparative analysis of sustainable energy consumption change initiatives in 30 European countries, this paper presents a new and innovative methodology for investigating the dynamics of change initiatives that target energy use within households and communities. It concludes with some critical reflections on the methodology presented.

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