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Articles and Conference Papers
Creating Lasting Through Improved User Involvement
Friday, 29 May 2009 13:50

For energy experts and energy intermediaries, energy efficiency is the most logical thing in the world. Unfortunately, energy end-users rarely see the world in the same way. For energy end-users, energy use is often ‘invisible' and rarely the subject of conscious decision. Thus, getting to know the end-user target group and finding the best ways to engage users are key issues for energy demand-side practitioners.

We draw on data collected in CHANGING BEHAVIOUR to explore user involvement in energy change. When analysing the ways in which our case programmes had learned about energy end-users’ needs, we found the following approaches:

  1. Surveys, interviews or group meetings
  2. Prior research, particular theoretical perspectives
  3. Experience from prior projects and similar examples
  4. User-driven project (or pilot project)
  5. Familiarity and informal interaction with end-users

We found that none of these approaches provides a ‘silver bullet’ to achieve success and change end-user behaviour. The approaches to learning about the end-users reflect slightly different approaches to planning. The paper explores the pros and cons of various approaches to learning about end-users. We conclude that methods for engaging end-users should be context-sensitive and allow practitioners to go “beyond method” – and beyond the view of end-users as passive recipients of approved solutions –  to adopt a relational approach to end-users. This means understanding one’s own relation to the end-users and viewing the end-users in a broader dynamic context. Rather than examining and working with isolated end-users, there is a need for tools that address end-users in context.

Full paper: Heiskanen, E., Johnson, M. & Vadovics, E. (2009). Creating Lasting Change in Energy Use Patterns through Improved User Involvement. Paper for the conference Joint Actions on Climate Change, Aalborg, June 9-10, 2009.

icon Conference paper: Creating Lasting Change in Energy Use Patterns through Improved User Involvement (164.17 kB)

eceee 2009 Summer Study Paper: New contexts and players in European energy efficiency programme
Friday, 03 April 2009 19:16

The paper discusses the diversity of ways in which new energy intermediaries in old and new member states of the EU are working to promote energy efficiency. We analyse the merits of ‘nesting’ energy efficiency within a broader climate or sustainability agenda. This broader agenda provides some advantages for the promotion of energy efficiency, but also some special challenges.

Full paper: Heiskanen, E., Hodson, M., Kallaste, T., Maier, P., Marvin, S., Mourik, R., Rinne, S., Saastamoinen, M. & Vadovics, E.(2009) A rose by any other name…? New contexts and players in European energy efficiency programmes. In Act, Innovate, Deliver. Proceedings of the eceee 2009 Summer Study. Stockholm: European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. pp. 247-257.

eceee 2009 Summer Study Paper: New contexts and players in European energy efficiency programmes

From Sociotechnical Theory to Sociotechnical Practice: An Action Research Project
Wednesday, 27 February 2008 16:32

This paper describes a recently launched research European project called CHANGING BEHAVIOUR, which focuses on energy demand management programmes and the kind of information they need to change the behaviour of their target groups. More details about this project and its partners are available at the website www.energychange.info. The aim of the paper is to flesh out some of the assumptions underlying the project and to envision some of the challenges involved in implementing it.

Full paper: Heiskanen, E. & Rask, M. (2008). From Sociotechnical Theory to Sociotechnical Practice: An Action Research Project. Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research Exchange (SCORE!) Network Sustainable Consumption and Production: Framework for Action. Refereed sessions 5 : pp.  3-16.
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Intermediaries as Innovating Actors in the Transition to a Sustainable Energy System
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 14:02

This article examines the role of intermediaries as implementers of demand-side management projects. Research into the reasons of successes and failures of intermediary work and a theoretical corroboration for their practical work can help intermediaries to improve their programme designs and implementation strategies. Paying more attention to context, stakeholders, monitoring, evaluation and learning enables the development of tailor-made, widely supported projects with higher chances of success. In addition to practical support for their work, intermediaries can benefit from stronger policy support. An appreciation of their work as contribution to policy implementation, e.g. towards energy saving targets, could motivate such support. A stable policy and financial environment with long-term implementation plans and funding schemes provides a fertile ground for intermediary activities. Active participation of policy actors in demand-side management programmes can create networks sustaining longer-lasting change.

Full article: Backhaus, J. (2010)  Intermediaries as Innovating Actors in the Transition to a Sustainable Energy System. Central European Journal of Public Policy 4 (1): 86–109.

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Learning in single & double loops – interaction as key to scientific & practical insights
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 14:09

This paper addresses the learning process involved in one of the CHANGING BEHAVIOUR pilot projects - the renovation of large multi-apartment building blocks in Latvia. This pilot project aims to increase the number of residents in support of increasing the energy efficiency of their building. The role of the intermediary in this case is that of an energy advisor that provides clear, transparent and relevant information to residents and that supports their decision-making process by improving stakeholder interaction. During the pilot, researchers facilitate the testing of the ‘toolkit’ by the intermediary in an interactive process. Through an analysis of the project documentation, this paper analyses the role of ‘tools’ in the learning process, as well as the importance of personal interaction between the intermediary and researcher.

Full paper: Backhaus, J., Mourik, R. & Breukers, S. (2010). Learning in single & double loops – interaction as key to scientific & practical insights. Paper presented at the EASST conference 2010, 2nd-4th September 2010, Trento, Italy.

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Friday, 03 April 2009 19:35

This article analyses different types of emerging low-carbon communities as a context for individual behavioural change. The focus is on how these communities offer solutions to problems in previous attempts to change individual behaviour. On the basis of an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of various community solutions, implications are drawn for further research and for the design and support of low-carbon communities.

Full paper: Heiskanen, E., Johnson, M., Robinson, S., Vadovics, E. & Saastamoinen, M. Low-Carbon Communities as a Context for Individual Change. Energy Policy, Articles in press, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2009.07.002

Submitted paper: Low carbon communities as a context for behavioural change

PRACTICING LEARNING AND LEARNING IN PRACTICE Testing learning tools for energy demand side projects
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 18:10

The history of energy demand side management (DSM) shows that accomplishing lasting energy-behavioural changes is difficult. The CHANGING BEHAVIOUR project aims at a better understanding of energy-related behavioural change, in order to improve DSM practice. The approach is one of continuous interaction between researchers and energy intermediaries (organisations implementing DSM projects at the micro-level). This collaborative project involves the development of ‘learning tools’ that help intermediaries improve their understanding of the context in which they work and their own role in the process. 

The learning tools have recently been tested in six pilot projects and this paper discusses the experiences of two of them. We discuss the  extent to which the ‘learning tools’ have encouraged social learning. Although the paper is explorative, we can conclude that the tools contribute to the creation of a setting that is conducive to social learning. Several activities can be helpful for intermediaries to reflect on their own role and assumptions, the targeted behaviour, the target group and the social context of the project. The final toolkit should be sufficiently flexible and context-sensitive to cater for the diverging needs of different intermediaries. In addition, as the pilots indicated, the role of external coaches who encourage the pilot manager to make use of the tools and who take on the role of a sparring partner appear to have been quite significant as well.

Full paper: Breukers, S.,  Backhaus, J., Mourik, R., Hodson, M., Marvin, S. & Brohmann, B. (2010). PRACTICING LEARNING AND LEARNING IN PRACTICE. Testing learning tools for energy demand side management projects. Proceedings of ERSCP/EMSU 2010.


icon Paper_ERSCP-EMSU_2010_05.09.2010 (934.86 kB)


Research Note 1: Glossary of Intermediaries
Thursday, 04 February 2010 13:45

This first research note of the CHANGING BEHAVIOUR project by Mike Hodson and Simon Marvin from SURF Centre discusses the strategic role of intermediary organisations in transforming the intensity, timing and level of energy use. Two different modes of energy intermediation are identified: 'project' and 'systemic' intermediaries. The paper also outlines the conditions for ‘active and transformative’ intermediation.

icon Research_Note_1_2008 (93.18 kB)


Research Note 2: Rating Expert Advice on How to Change Energy Behaviour
Thursday, 04 February 2010 13:43

There is a wide literature on 'tools' and methods to change energy-related behaviour. This literature is reviewed in D5: Interaction Schemes for Successful Energy Demand  Management. But how appropriate are these tools for intermediaries promoting energy efficiency and energy conservation on the local level? The CHANGING BEHAVIOUR team has rated 19 of the most widely discussed tools. Our partners have pooled their experience to give their views on "what works where and for whom". '

A summary of this excersise is available in CHANGING BEHAVIOUR Research Note 2

icon Rating Expert Advice for How to Change Energy Behaviour (150.31 kB).

The role of timing in the success of energy saving programmes
Friday, 03 April 2009 19:37

Timing is an activity that brings together multiple elements at a particular point in time. In the context of energy saving programmes, timing includes processes and strategies whereby the programme interacts with changes in its context. This paper presents examples of the impact of timing, and suggests a framework for conceptualising the role of timing in managing energy systems change.

Some practitioners might argue that timing is an issue of “luck” and that it cannot be influenced. Our case studies, however, show some ways in which programme managers can deal improve their timing:

  1. Making a careful analysis of the history of the context into which they are introducing their programme. Are there problematic experiences that have led to distrust of certain solutions? Are there positive experiences or competencies that can benefit the programme?
  2. Examining the potential links of their programme to ongoing changes in the operating environment, such as synergetic or competing programmes and developments.
  3. Articulating future expectations, especially when they are crucial to the logic of the programme (e.g. rising energy prices), and creating forums for aligning the expectations of different stakeholders.
  4. Anticipating future changes by keeping the programme design flexible; for example by designing a programme that can be scaled up or down depending on changing conditions.

Full paper: Rask, M., Heiskanen, E., Mourik, R. M. & Feenstra, Feenstra, C.F.J. (2008). The role of timing in the success of energy saving programmes. Paper presented at the Sustainable Consumption Conference, Corvinus University, Budapest, October 8, 2008.

Conference Paper: The role of timing in the success of energy saving programmes



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