Associate Professor Janet Stephenson
Associate Professor Janet Stephenson is the Director of Centre for Sustainability, a flagship research centre of the University of Otago, New Zealand. She is a social scientist with an interest in socio-technical transitions and societal responses to environmental challenges. She was the science leader of the 7-year Energy Cultures research programme, which examined energy and mobility behaviour through a cultural lens. She is also a researcher in the GREEN Grid programme on the future of New Zealand’s electricity grid, leading the Otago University team which is examining the implications of changing consumer expectations and technology uptake. She is also the Chair of the National Energy Research Institute.
ENERGY CULTURES AND ENERGY EFFICIENCIES
Energy-related behaviours in households are shaped by multiple influences, some arising from characteristics of the households themselves and some to wider factors that are well beyond the scope of household agency. For this reason, investigations based on a narrow range of factors (e.g. technological, economic) fail to capture the complexity of behavioural drivers and may result in ineffective policy interventions. The concept of energy cultures offers an actor-centred and context-rich perspective on energy behaviour. It invites consideration of the heterogeneity of energy behaviours amongst households, the external factors that promote stasis and change, and options for policy interventions. Using New Zealand and international examples, I introduce the energy cultures framework and illustrate some of its applications, with a particular focus on the challenge of changing household energy cultures to improve energy efficiency. I show how this approach can assist in devising policies that are targeted to identifiable energy cultures within a population, including for the fuel poor.