Morley, J. (2018). Rethinking energy services: The concept of ‘meta-service’ and implications for demand reduction and servicizing policy. Energy Policy, 122, 563-569.
The idea that energy is not consumed for its own sake but for the services that it provides has become axiomatic. However, the implications are not worked through into energy policy nor into most analyses of energy demand. Instead, energy service demand is usually isolated from its dynamic and varied socio-cultural basis, rendering it inappropriately static and neglecting the core quality of usefulness that definitions of ‘energy service’ share. To address these limitations, this paper revisits and extends a sociological conceptualisation of services, referred to here as meta-services. These are composite and cross-cutting formations of convention, expectation and experience and the means of achieving them. Meta-services are more-than-energy services and are shaped not only through energy consumption, provision and governance but also by a range of other non-energy providers and organisations. This calls for demand reduction policies to engage wider coalitions of service ‘stakeholders’. In addition, because energy-services co-constitute meta-services, aspirations to deliver the same levels of service but more efficiently risk entrenching, rather than reducing, levels of service demand. Implications for service-based business models (servicizing) and policies are discussed.