New publication: Broadening the Energy Savings Potential of People: From Technology and Behavior to Citizen Science and Social Potential

Kathryn B. Janda, Mithra Moezzi (2014) Broadening the Energy Savings Potential of People: From Technology and Behavior to Citizen Science and Social Potential 2014 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Abstract

Much of the people-centered work in the energy field focuses on changing the behavior of individuals around a relatively fixed set of “energy services” in homes. While this work is important, it is fairly narrow. It tends not to consider the larger social contexts, professional cultures, and institutional expectations that shape activities, habits, and practices behind energy use everywhere, both in and beyond homes. This paper discusses a richer possible contribution of social sciences toward improving understanding of energy supply and demand and how policy might reshape these. To do so, it promotes a concept of “social potential” as a counterpoint to the widely accepted forms of technical and behavioral potential that underpin most of today’s energy efficiency policies. As examples, we discuss three different forms of collective engagement that lie outside the usual lens used for technological and behavioral research: (a) citizen science movements; (b) building communities; and (c) middle-out initiatives that focus on communities, organizations, and building professionals rather than individual homeowners. Such movements merit more recognition, thought, and support from the energy efficiency community and policy makers as viable pathways towards lower-energy living and working.