Widening the scope? How intermediary actors can shape energy consumption patterns

Panel: 8. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Author:
Davide Maneschi, Aalborg University, Denmark

Abstract

This paper deals with energy consumption in the residential sector and with the implementation of measures to reduce it. While most research dealing with energy consumption has targeted factors and drivers at the individual user level, more recent works have highlighted collective aspects of (energy) consumption, both to explain the resilience of consumption patterns and to identify leverage points for the reduction of energy use. One understudied aspect of this discussion is the way “intermediary” actors – those actors who are neither policy makers, nor users, nor energy providers – influence energy consumption. This paper presents a review of the literature on intermediaries, providing an overview of their roles and contextualizing their functions in energy efficiency improvements. The review shows how the concept of intermediaries has been used in research dealing with innovation, socio-technical systems, governance in the water sector and, although limitedly, in the explanation of aspects related to consumption and energy use. Building on the framework given by the review, the paper presents a case study to provide a real-life example of how intermediaries can favor the more efficient use of energy. The case study shows how obligations set up by a policy instrument are employed by a bank to offer its clients dedicated loans in order to finance energy efficiency improvements in their houses. The drivers and the context behind the bank’s activities are analyzed, and the relevance of the roles and functions of intermediaries is highlighted. The relevance and efficacy of employing the concept of intermediaries are also discussed based on the case study. Above all, it is proposed that research dealing with energy consumption should not limit itself to study factors and practices determining energy consumption at the user level, but should include the interactions of energy users with other actors and how these may define energy consumption.

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