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What is energy know-how, and how can it be shared and acquired?

Panel: 9. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Kevin Burchell, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Ruth Rettie, Kingston University, United Kingdom
Tom C Roberts, Kingston University, United Kingdom


Our aim in this short paper is to contribute to conceptual, practical and policy discussions about the role of householder knowledge in the context of policy ambitions to reduce domestic energy consumption. More specifically, we are interested in the characteristics of this knowledge, the ways in which householders acquire such knowledge, and the kinds of activities and policies that might support this. Within this context, literacy approaches emphasise factual knowledge, cognitive reasoning, and ideal attitudes and behaviours; within this mainstream approach, education and communications are key policy recommendations. In contrast, know-how approaches are critical of literacy approaches and emphasise practical skills, experience and guidance. Key policy recommendations focus on tailored guidance delivered through activities such as demonstration homes and home audits. Smart Communities was a community action and action research project on energy demand reduction. The activities in the project drew on both literacy and know-how approaches, and the research methods focussed on in-depth interviews, a survey and informal interactions with project participants and partners. The project strongly supports the views that are expressed in the know-how literature, but also highlights the practical challenge of scaling-up activities such as home visits. Meanwhile, approaches that drew on literacy approaches produced less change, but were easier to implement at scale. In our discussion, we raise the need for know-how approaches to be more adequately supported in policy, and the need to investigate and experiment with novel approaches that would allow these activities to be scaled-up. In support of these objectives, we present a concise expression of the concept of 'energy know-how'. In addition, we suggest that the know-how literature is perhaps overly critical of the literacy approach, and we discuss some ways in which literacy approaches can be more effective.


Download this presentation as pdf: 9-048-15_Burchell_pre.pdf

Download this paper as pdf: 9-048-15_Burchell.pdf