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Stimulating energy sufficiency: barriers and opportunities

Panel: 1. Foundations of future energy policy

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Edouard Toulouse, France
Hélène Gorge, Faculté Ingénierie et Management de la Santé, Univ. Lille-SKEMA Business School, France
Mathieu Le Dû, Virage-Energie Nord Pas De Calais, France
Luc Semal, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Centre d’écologie et des sciences de la conservation, France

Abstract

Energy efficiency policies and measures have so far mostly focused on technical optimisation, that is reducing the energy needed to provide a certain service, without so much questioning the service itself and its relevance in comparison to other ways of delivering societal progress and well-being. As it has been reported, there are limits to this approach, especially if in parallel to efficiency progress the amount of delivered or expected energy services continues to grow wildly and offsets the benefits of the former. There are undoubtedly potentials and benefits in broadening the scope and exploring ways of encouraging not only efficiency but also energy sufficiency.

However, this broadening of the scope suggests having a more holistic approach looking at behaviours and societal organisation. It raises specific challenges and barriers, whose nature can be political (challenging the dominant consumerism paradigm), sociological / organisational (adjusting values and the framework in which personal decisions and habits take place), and even technical (designing tools and practical nudges that could facilitate a more sober energy behaviour).

This paper provides an overview of this topic, building on recent projects and research on sufficiency in the French context in various fields (energy modelling, social sciences, etc.). It also looks at a number of new developments that could directly or indirectly stimulate energy sufficiency, such as the rise of the sharing economy, the diffusion of societal innovation practices, as well as new trends in lifestyles (e.g. vegetarianism).

The paper calls for increasing exchanges and networking between sufficiency researchers and experts in the EU, to reach a critical mass able to put sufficiency at the level it deserves on the EU political agenda.

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