Demanding Energy: An Introduction
Allison Hui, Rosie Day and Gordon Walker
This edited collection starts from the question: what social processes constitute and make energy demand? That is, what is energy for? Pursuing this question requires stepping back from energy demand per se to investigate the social practices that contribute to its constitution, patterning, and transformation. Drawing in part upon social theories of practice and bringing together empirical cases addressing transportation, institutional, and domestic settings, chapters draw particularly upon socio-theoretical understandings of space, time and change in order to provide new and sophisticated contributions to discussions of energy demand. This introduction discusses key themes and outlines the book’s structure.
Demanding Connectivity, Demanding Charging: The Co-production of Mobile Communication Between Electrical and Digital Infrastructures
Smartphones connect users to the Internet while on the move: these devices harness always-on wireless connectivity, powered by batteries in need of regular charging. Supporting the mobile communication of smartphones is the infrastructure of wireless connectivity and the global internet itself. Both systems require not-insignificant amounts of electricity. Emerging social practices of using and charging smartphones in transit offer an entry-point to theorizing energy needs surrounding ICTs beyond home and workspaces, in public and in motion. An ethnographic travel narrative is presented, detailing charging practices in train stations in the Northeast United States, on trains, and the energy demand of a nearby data center. This narrative provides an overview of the merged infrastructures that facilitate new social practices and create new forms of energy demand.
Constructing Normality Through Material and Social Lock-in: The Dynamics of Energy Consumption Among Geneva’s More Affluent Households
This chapter explores the underpinning dimensions of energy-using practices among an affluent social group in Geneva, or households who self-identify as being part of the expatriate population. We demonstrate how people can be locked into certain consumption practices by their physical possessions, a form of material lock-in, but also by social status and power dynamics, what we term social lock-in. Much of this has to do with expectations around social norms, or how normality is constructed within this social group and across different consumption spaces, and the critical role of norms in holding practices together over time. Opportunities for destabilizing practices and challenging expectations around energy consumption are discussed, including the role of demonstration sites, the value of time, and the significance of social networks.
Understanding Temporariness Beyond the Temporal: Greenfield and Urban Music Festivals and their Energy Use Implications
Michael E. P. Allen
This chapter investigates the concept of temporariness and its importance in understanding energy demand at greenfield and urban music festivals. It argues for an expanded understanding of temporariness that goes beyond the temporal (duration, rate of recurrence) to also include important spatial aspects (location, infrastructural arrangements). Allen draws on theories of social practice, specifically the concept of practice bundles, to argue that music festivals are a form of organised event composed of social practices and that these practices constitute energy demand. He concludes that both temporal and spatial characteristics of temporariness are important in shaping the energy demand of music festivals.
Towards a ‘Meaning’-ful Analysis of the Temporalities of Mobility Practices: Implications for Sustainability
This chapter argues for the value of taking a more relational and situated understanding of the temporality of mobility practices. While there are dominant meanings of how temporal dichotomies relate to mobility practices, these are challenged by the multiplicity and relativity of meanings people attribute to their practices. Drawing on research conducted in Birmingham, UK, the chapter details how people’s experiences of mobility are made meaningful in relation to different dimensions of temporalities, as well as wider, complex intersections of temporalities, practices and materialities. Focusing on the temporal dimensions of speed, duration and rhythmicity, it argues that since multiple temporalities are already embedded in people’s understandings of mobility, these should be more carefully represented and analysed in discussions of sustainability and possible mobility transitions.
Being at Home Today: Inhabitance Practices and the Transformation and Blurring of French Domestic Living Spaces
Véronique Beillan and Sylvie Douzou
This chapter analyses how various domestic spaces are caught up in some of the most significant societal transformations observed in France. The authors explore households’ inhabitance practices and underline the importance of two movements that interweave: firstly, a renewed multi-functionality in flexible domestic spaces and, secondly, the individuation of activities within these spaces. Both go hand in hand with a new composition of individual and collective daily temporalities and result in increased de-synchronized and spatio-temporal context-free activities served by ubiquitous access to services and nomadic tools. This complexity and the breaking or blurring of conventional boundaries implies that to track the dynamics of domestic energy use requires renewed units of analysis that would better capture the daily continuum of change as well as emergent patterns.
The Car as a Safety-net: Narrative Accounts of the Role of Energy Intensive Transport in Conditions of Housing and Employment Uncertainty
Caroline Mullen and Greg Marsden
Less car travel increases prospects of limiting transport energy. Policy attempts to reduce car use by encouraging people to choose other modes face criticism that travel needs are not simply about choice but are structurally influenced, especially by urban form. Mullen and Marsden extend understanding of travel need by showing how uncertainty in housing and employment further constrains people’s control over travel, resulting in needs for complicated journeys often at short notice. Some respond to uncertainty by running a car even where this presents financial problems. Those without a vehicle face lost opportunities and hardship. In the face of increasing employment and housing precarity, policy needs to rethink focus on choice and instead find ways of meeting complex travel needs without extensive resort to cars.
The Tenuous and Complex Relationship Between Flexible Working Practices and Travel Demand Reduction
Any reduction in dependence on fossil fuels within transport requires a fundamental transition going beyond only technological changes. The automobile commute is a central concern due to its contribution to carbon emissions, but has proven stubbornly resistant to established policy approaches. Flexible working practices are considered useful in accomplishing these reductions. Drawing from 29 qualitative interviews, this chapter challenges the efficacy of these approaches. It argues that flexibility of work does not necessarily equate to commute flexibility, with limitations arising from working and other everyday practices. Flexibility within working practices is found to be minimal, having limited effects upon the timing of travel and overall travel demand for work, raising questions as to the future scope of these approaches to reduce energy demand.
Leisure Travel and the Time of Later Life
Rosie Day, Russell Hitchings, Emmet Fox, Susan Venn and Julia F. Hibbert
This chapter explores the evolving demand for energy-intensive long distance leisure travel in retirement, a phenomenon which is widely predicted to be on the increase due to demographic change, rising retirement incomes and the retirement of the baby boomer generation, often labelled as the first consumer generation. We undertook serial interviews with three cohorts of people in London and Birmingham UK who were respectively approaching retirement, recently retired and longer retired. Drawing on interview material we discuss the different ways in which the time of retirement is imagined, experienced and consumed, and argue that understanding these different and sometimes competing temporal aspects of later life leads to a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of demand for retirement leisure travel and its potential trajectories.
Changing Eating Practices in France and Great Britain: Evidence from Time Use Data and Implications for Direct Energy Demand
Mathieu Durand-Daubin and Ben Anderson
In the global challenge to reduce energy consumption, appeals to change behaviour tend to ignore the fabric of everyday life as it has been, as it changes, and how this relates to energy consumption. In this chapter, we analyse the evolution of practices that are widely shared, highly regular and key markers in the organisation of everyday life: cooking and eating. We highlight changes in the patterns of meals and food preparation in France and Great Britain from 1974 to 2010, according to nationally representative quantitative Time Use Survey data. The analysis reveals how elements of domestic energy demand are related to specific practices and how their synchronisation and dynamics of change can be understood in the light of wider social and technical changes.
Paths, Projects and Careers of Domestic Practice: Exploring Dynamics of Demand over Biographical Time
Understandings of how and why patterns of domestic energy demand change over biographical time remain poorly understood. The predominant practice-theoretical approach to exploring dynamics has been to explore the biographies of practices themselves with the consequence that there has been little exploration of individuals’ lives. This is despite the importance of individuals’ biographic experience for shaping patterns of performance, reproduction and change over time. This chapter discusses concepts and methods employed in a qualitative study focused on understanding patterns and processes shaping biographic dynamics in key household practices implicated in energy demand, namely food, mobility and laundry practices. Findings reveal that practice careers are strongly shaped by social, institutional and technological change which are implicated in shifting temporal and relational dynamics of domestic practice.
Demanding Business Travel: The Evolution of the Timespaces of Business Practice
Ian Jones, James Faulconbridge, Greg Marsden and Jillian Anable
To date, virtual ways of working have yet to substantially reduce demand for business travel. Emerging research claims that virtual and physical work compliment rather than substitute for one another. This suggests travel demand stems from business strategies and achieving business outcomes. In building on these ideas, this chapter draws upon Schatzki’s conception of timespace to capture changes in how two UK-based global construction and engineering consulting firms organise work and the implications in terms of demand for business travel. Overtime, particular forms of spatially stretched organisation which have developed are found to require the interweaving of timespaces through travel. As such, how each firm has evolved has in turn created the contemporary situation of significant and hard to reduce demand for travel.
Demand Side Flexibility and Responsiveness: Moving Demand in Time Through Technology
Mitchell Curtis, Jacopo Torriti and Stefan Smith
Demand Side Response (DSR) consists of a set of programmes, policies and technologies that enable shifting energy demand in time with varying degrees of end-user’s engagement. It is increasingly seen as the main tool for achieving flexible and responsive energy demand. The objective of this chapter is to move beyond existing approaches to better incorporate the material technological arrangements of appliances, infrastructures, and the social rhythms of everyday coordination into analysis of DSR in practice. In so doing we propose clearer definitions of both how flexibility and responsiveness should be understood. Taking the example of hotels as a site of energy demand, we detail which energy loads have potential for demand responsiveness and focus on questions of automation at different stages of the DSR process.
Reducing Demand for Energy in Hospitals: Opportunities for and Limits to Temporal Coordination
This chapter describes some of the ways that demand for energy is made in hospitals. It develops an account of energy demand as the outcome of the organisation of connected working practices that constitute the regular provision of healthcare. Drawing on interview data taken from an ethnographic study of institutional rhythms and the organisation of working practices in hospitals, it describes how changes in the material arrangements, professional boundaries, and temporalities that underpin hospital life affect the fixity and flexibility of connections between practices in ways that matter for the potential for large institutions to achieve demand side response and to foster the design of new and less resource-intensive ways of working.
Identifying Research Strategies and Methodological Priorities for the Study of Demanding Energy
Allison Hui, Rosie Day and Gordon Walker
This chapter revisits the whole edited collection with an explicit focus upon research strategies for studying demanding energy. Investigating what energy is for, it argues, involves embedding three methodological priorities into research designs: 1) posing questions that focus upon social dynamics rather than upon energy itself; 2) reflecting upon how particular units of study facilitate the examination of different types of interconnections; and 3) incorporating spatial and temporal dynamics into research designs. The approaches to case selection and sampling that follow from these priorities are then elaborated. By challenging the idea that energy research must place energy at the centre of all of its research questions, this chapter provides openings for developing innovative accounts of what energy is for and how it is changing.