As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future, managing energy demand has become a crucial factor in reducing carbon emissions and ensuring a reliable energy supply. In this regard, energy demand side management (DSM) programmes have emerged as a promising solution to promote energy efficiency and conservation. However, implementing such programmes requires a comprehensive understanding of end-users’ needs and behaviours, as well as the involvement of intermediary organisations.
DSM programmes focus on energy services rather than energy production, and they encompass a range of activities, such as informative instruments, pilot/demonstration projects, auditing and investment support, voluntary agreements, and third-party financing schemes. These programmes aim to shift the European energy market towards energy services that meet end-users’ needs, such as lighted space rather than electricity consumption.
Intermediary organisations play a vital role in this process. They act as mediators between the contexts of energy production and consumption, and they include governmental or semi-governmental energy agencies, non-governmental organisations, consultancies, and energy service companies (ESCOs). By engaging with end-users and facilitating their participation in DSM programmes, intermediaries can effectively bridge the gap between energy supply and demand.
To ensure the success of DSM programmes, it is essential to contextualise best practices through action research. While there are good examples of how to change energy-related behaviour, these practices need to be adapted to the needs of different contexts, including the economic, institutional, cultural, and social conditions of different countries, localities, and end-user groups. Action research is an approach that builds on a cycle of action and reflection in a joint learning process by researchers and practitioners, thus developing real-time, contextually relevant knowledge.
The aim of our project is to develop and disseminate a theoretically rich but practical conceptual model and toolkit of the socio-technical change involved in energy demand management programmes. Our toolkit will be sensitive to the influence of context, timing, and actors, and will facilitate the cross-country transfer and localisation of European best practices. By engaging with intermediary organisations and end-users, we believe that our project can contribute to a more sustainable and reliable energy future.
In conclusion, managing energy demand is a complex but essential task, and DSM programmes offer a promising solution to promote energy efficiency and conservation. However, to ensure their success, it is crucial to involve intermediary organisations and contextualise best practices through action research. Our project aims to contribute to this process by developing a practical toolkit that can facilitate the cross-country transfer and localisation of European best practices.