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Using time use data to trace 'energy practices' through time

Using time use data to trace 'energy practices' through time
Using time use data to trace 'energy practices' through time
Developing grounded strategic scenarios to support the long term transformation of energy systems requires an understanding of how the current 'status quo' came to be so that we can understand how it might need to change. Yet strategic policy analysis often conceptualises energy demand as deriving from 'fixed needs' that can be 'met' through material (infrastructural) transformations (E. Shove and Walker 2014). Such conceptions rarely engage with any sense of how things came to be as they are and in particular how what people actually do with energy continues to change over time (Elizabeth Shove 2003). Yet an emerging body of work suggests that such understandings are crucial to the development of interventions that can disrupt the current trajectories of energy demand evolution and shift them towards more sustainable solutions to the carbon, cost and security trilemma (Skea and Ekins 2014).

Clearly the variance and flexibility of the temporal distribution of energy demand is of fundamental importance to the ability to shift the scale and timing of consumption in order to balance load on, for example, the electricity network and adapt to intermittent or temporally inflexible sources (Darby and McKenna 2012; Barton et al. 2013). This is particularly the case where the timing of (un)synchronised domestic activities have significant implications not only for peak electricity demand (Walker 2014) but also for matching demand to uncertain generation or avoiding demand in periods of reduced generation in a low-carbon energy system. It is therefore clear that understanding what different people do at particular times of day and how that places demand for electricity on the generation and distribution networks is a predicate for understanding the practical value of potential transformation scenarios. Not only this but there is a strong argument that understanding how such 'doings' have evolved over time will give a substantially more nuanced view of how particular forms of energy demand have come to be embedded in current ways of ‘doing’ everyday life (E. Shove and Walker 2014; Walker 2014), how resistant they may be to change (Powells et al. 2014) and how wider transitions in the temporality of practices could provide opportunities for strategic transformative intervention (Southerton 2013).

This paper responds to this analytic need by using time use survey data from the United Kingdom to paint a broad picture of changes in the temporal patterns of 'energy demanding' practices over the last 30 years. By initially focusing on a set of ten 'Activity Classes' the paper highlights trends in classes of activities including personal care, cooking and eating, work, shopping, media use and travel which can be seen as proxies for a range of interlinked energy 'demanding' social practices. The paper will highlight clear evidence of change in the temporal patterns of the activities, some of which have been corroborated by other recent studies (Warde et al. 2007). Through finer grained analysis using dimensions of age and income, the paper then shows how heterogeneity in these trends is endemic and so demonstrates that the apparent evolution of the performances of practices proceeds at varying rates for different social groups.

The paper then (re)disaggregates the Activity Classes to focus on trends in the temporal distribution of 'cleaning', 'cooking and eating' and 'doing the laundry' as exemplars of practices which are often seen as 'targets' for material energy efficiency innovation. By presenting analysis of the persistently gendered nature of these activities in the UK, together with evidence of substantial variation across employment, age and income dimensions, the analysis highlights the extent to which such activities may or may not be open to reconfiguration or reduction.

Noting the changing material and cultural constitution of the activity classes and their constituent practices over time, the paper concludes by discussing a range of implications for potentially transformative interventions. These will make particular reference to notions of 'non-energy' energy policies enacted via the reconfiguration of societal temporalities (Southerton 2013), 'smart technologies' (Strengers 2013; Ford et al. 2014) and flexible electricity demand (Torriti, Hassan, and Leach 2010).
RCUKDEMAND
Anderson, Ben
01e98bbd-b402-48b0-b83e-142341a39b2d
Anderson, Ben
01e98bbd-b402-48b0-b83e-142341a39b2d

Anderson, Ben (2016) Using time use data to trace 'energy practices' through time. Energy Cultures Conference 2016, New Zealand. 06 - 07 Jul 2016.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

Developing grounded strategic scenarios to support the long term transformation of energy systems requires an understanding of how the current 'status quo' came to be so that we can understand how it might need to change. Yet strategic policy analysis often conceptualises energy demand as deriving from 'fixed needs' that can be 'met' through material (infrastructural) transformations (E. Shove and Walker 2014). Such conceptions rarely engage with any sense of how things came to be as they are and in particular how what people actually do with energy continues to change over time (Elizabeth Shove 2003). Yet an emerging body of work suggests that such understandings are crucial to the development of interventions that can disrupt the current trajectories of energy demand evolution and shift them towards more sustainable solutions to the carbon, cost and security trilemma (Skea and Ekins 2014).

Clearly the variance and flexibility of the temporal distribution of energy demand is of fundamental importance to the ability to shift the scale and timing of consumption in order to balance load on, for example, the electricity network and adapt to intermittent or temporally inflexible sources (Darby and McKenna 2012; Barton et al. 2013). This is particularly the case where the timing of (un)synchronised domestic activities have significant implications not only for peak electricity demand (Walker 2014) but also for matching demand to uncertain generation or avoiding demand in periods of reduced generation in a low-carbon energy system. It is therefore clear that understanding what different people do at particular times of day and how that places demand for electricity on the generation and distribution networks is a predicate for understanding the practical value of potential transformation scenarios. Not only this but there is a strong argument that understanding how such 'doings' have evolved over time will give a substantially more nuanced view of how particular forms of energy demand have come to be embedded in current ways of ‘doing’ everyday life (E. Shove and Walker 2014; Walker 2014), how resistant they may be to change (Powells et al. 2014) and how wider transitions in the temporality of practices could provide opportunities for strategic transformative intervention (Southerton 2013).

This paper responds to this analytic need by using time use survey data from the United Kingdom to paint a broad picture of changes in the temporal patterns of 'energy demanding' practices over the last 30 years. By initially focusing on a set of ten 'Activity Classes' the paper highlights trends in classes of activities including personal care, cooking and eating, work, shopping, media use and travel which can be seen as proxies for a range of interlinked energy 'demanding' social practices. The paper will highlight clear evidence of change in the temporal patterns of the activities, some of which have been corroborated by other recent studies (Warde et al. 2007). Through finer grained analysis using dimensions of age and income, the paper then shows how heterogeneity in these trends is endemic and so demonstrates that the apparent evolution of the performances of practices proceeds at varying rates for different social groups.

The paper then (re)disaggregates the Activity Classes to focus on trends in the temporal distribution of 'cleaning', 'cooking and eating' and 'doing the laundry' as exemplars of practices which are often seen as 'targets' for material energy efficiency innovation. By presenting analysis of the persistently gendered nature of these activities in the UK, together with evidence of substantial variation across employment, age and income dimensions, the analysis highlights the extent to which such activities may or may not be open to reconfiguration or reduction.

Noting the changing material and cultural constitution of the activity classes and their constituent practices over time, the paper concludes by discussing a range of implications for potentially transformative interventions. These will make particular reference to notions of 'non-energy' energy policies enacted via the reconfiguration of societal temporalities (Southerton 2013), 'smart technologies' (Strengers 2013; Ford et al. 2014) and flexible electricity demand (Torriti, Hassan, and Leach 2010).

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Accepted/In Press date: 15 February 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 6 July 2016
Venue - Dates: Energy Cultures Conference 2016, New Zealand, 2016-07-06 - 2016-07-07
Keywords: RCUKDEMAND
Organisations: Energy & Climate Change Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 400481
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/400481
PURE UUID: 80c44326-eb94-4c2c-9f46-66630f320fe5
ORCID for Ben Anderson: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2092-4406

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Date deposited: 19 Sep 2016 08:29
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:25

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Author: Ben Anderson ORCID iD

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