The Policy Implications of Everyday Energy Consumption: The Meanings, Temporal Rhythms and Social Dynamics of Energy use
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Traditional research into pro-environmental behaviour change has a tendency to be focussed on either the context in which practices are enacted or the cognitive processes that lead to particular behaviours. Research is often located within individual disciplines, with policy implications defined by (often) narrow interpretations of a problem. Despite increasing recognition of the ability of behaviour change to significantly contribute to the reduction in emissions required to meet UK targets, policy is so far failing to encourage ‘normative’ low carbon practices in many areas of life. Based on theories of social practice, this thesis attempts to redress the relationship between individuals and behaviour in order to discover how energy practices are developed, maintained and reconfigured. Specifically, it develops a phenomenological approach to energy consumption by exploring how energy practices are experienced by individuals on a daily basis, based on the premise that much human behaviour is driven by individuals’ perceptions of their actions. The study highlights the importance of the meanings and associations that individuals possess in relation to their energy practices and how these are implicated by their experiences, past and present. Furthermore, it contends that practices are influenced by social interactional dynamics and normative frameworks within the home, as well as by the form and frequency of social relations external to the home. With energy consumption so closely interlocked with the practices with which individuals engage in a daily basis, this thesis suggests that policy needs to be more in tune with the everyday experiences of energy consumers. It concludes by setting out a form of policy-making that has the potential to reduce everyday energy use by being sensitive to the experiences and well-being of individuals and society.
PhD in Geography