The Role of Behaviour in Energy Transition
A study of leading city and community-level energy transitions demonstrates behavioral changes across personal, social, and external dimensions. Research from "Transition towards Low-Carbon Energy Security" (MILESECURE 2050) was presented at the third BEHAVE Energy Conference in Oxford, United Kingdom in September 2014. Giovanni Caiati (Laboratory of Citizenship Sciences) and Adam Pearson, Transatlantic Fellow at Ecologic Institute presented research that shows social and behavioral aspects contribute strongly to energy transition processes. The poster is available for download.
The qualitative research was conducted over 90 case studies in 19 European countries, identifying key societal conditions that facilitate or hinder a transition to a low-carbon society. The lessons drawn from the study can be summarized as follows:
- Social dynamics play a significant and weighty role in effective energy transition processes, and
- Energy transition processes are associated with a three-pronged behavioral paradigm shift, including:
- high agency, sense of ownership, and active interaction with a new technology or service;
- orientation to groups and grassroots processes; and
- longer-term considerations in decision making
The output of the study, thus, presents the energy transition as a social product (and therefore, by extension, a behavioral product) and not as a technological process alien to society.
The BEHAVE Energy Conference was an opportunity for researchers Adam Pearson and Giovanni Caiati to discuss societal forces and group behavior in the context of energy efficiency. The conference as a whole focused on behavioral interactions with energy technologies and financial incentives to reduce consumption, and so the macro and sociological overview provoked much discussion among the participants.