Engagement pathways towards a smart and sustainable residential energy culture: Perspectives from Canada

Authors: Bronwyn Lazowski*, University of Waterloo, Paul Parker, University of Waterloo
Topics: Energy, Environment, Canada
Keywords: Smart grid, engagement, energy transitions, energy culture, intervention design, Canada
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Energy consumption is sociotechnical and the transition towards the smart grid involves a co-evolution of technology and behaviour to develop a smart energy culture. But how do we define this smart energy culture and how can we effectively engage consumers to achieve this culture? The Energy Cultures Framework by Stephenson et al. (2010) brings opportunities to define and study this transition and to identify effective engagement pathways. Simply relying on a technologically-driven smart utopia is problematic; instead, elements of user adoption and consumption patterns need to be incorporated through social science approaches (Sovacool et al., 2015; Strengers, 2013). Utilizing the findings from two Ontario residential smart grid case studies, lessons for engagement pathways can be highlighted. The first study investigated the effectiveness of in-home displays within Ontario households through quantitative analysis. The second study provides a mixed-methods approach highlighting participants’ consumption changes and feedback, following the installation of smart panels and fourteen engagement mechanisms (i.e., newsletters, webportal) over a four-year period. Utilizing the comprehensive approach of Stephenson et al. (2010, 2015), the Energy Cultures Framework allows for in-depth investigation into household decision-making and overall energy culture. Focusing on engagement opportunities to change consumption behaviours is particularly important for residential consumers who have strong agency to make efficiency upgrades and shift towards smarter and more sustainable energy practices; therefore, utilizing knowledge gained from these two case studies for effective engagement strategies can provide meaningful insights to achieve the transition to a smart energy culture.

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