Douzou, Sylvie & Sophie Bouly de Lesdain (2013) Everyday life energy-related innovations in the harsh light of social reality: Turning Energy Efficiency Policy foundations upside down? ECEEE Summer Study Proceedings, 251-260.From the ECEEE 2013 Summer Study Proceedings.
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Home energy related innovations constitute the cornerstone of most scenarios and visions of the future underpinning energy efficiency policies for the residential sector. Not without reason: the ambitious targets declared may necessarily be achieved partly through the integration of a sophisticated set of possible socio-technical innovations – but only under certain conditions. Such projections remain (at least in part) “stories” of possible futures. These narratives will eventually become reality only on the condition that these “socio-technical promises” find their place and meaning in the social system for which they are intended. In addition, they will achieve their objectives only on the condition that the ways in which they will be incorporated into social practices will lead to better management of energy uses. This is obviously not always the case. A recent example of such a “failure” is the EU’s Energy Efficiency (EE) Directive which the European Commission admitted will not achieve its ambitious targets by 2020 but only half, according to the latest estimates (Gierulski 2012).
In this paper, we argue that such views – often too strictly normative – do not stand up to the analysis of real conditions of insertion/co-evolution innovations which are indeed deeply anchored in a particular historical, social and evolving context of a given society. Home energy-related innovations are indeed hybrid and co-shaped devices resulting from an intertwined process of innovation and social incorporation. To this effect, we will first question the way current European policies are formulated, as well as their main underlying assumptions illustrated by such notions as “social acceptability” and will argue in favour of a move towards broader and more suitable approaches. Secondly, we will present an overview of two French case studies focusing on the “reception” processes of policies and related measures. We will then present some of their key findings by adopting the point of view of end-users. We will finally open up the discussion about how we might (should?) conceive and develop different energy related policies in order to make them more efficient and impactful.