Journal article

Energy performance gaps: promises, people, practices

22 Aug 2017

Energy policy continues not to acknowledge the gap between the calculated (i.e. the anticipated or promised) and the actual consumption associated with peoples’ everyday practices in their homes and in the building sector. Multiple explanations exist for why this ‘performance gap’ occurs. Some attribute ‘the gap’ to building regulations and their associated energy calculations’ unrealistic behavioural assumptions, and to the ways in which energy modelling and simulation is performed (de Wilde, 2014de Wilde, P. (2014). The papers differ in terms of theoretical grounding, but all seek – albeit in very different ways – to deepen our understanding and provide insights into the practices and processes involved in trying to improve building energy performance. It is found that: 
1. Policy must move beyond just focusing on the efficiency of buildings and theoretical energy reductions. Policy needs to be more firmly based on understandings of how new technologies will also introduce new practices and new norms of what home, comfort and a good everyday life is. The question becomes: what policies can promote technological development in ways that make peoples’ practices change in a direction toward less energy consumption?
2. It is necessary to consider how to develop new (smart) technologies that people can understand, more easily domesticate and use, while at the same time considering whether these new technologies induce more consumption rather than help consumers to save energy.
3. In relation to the end-users, van den Brom argues that data and analysis of household types and building characteristics can provide policy-makers with insights into which groups to target in energy-saving policies. If policy is to deliver the needed radical CO2 and energy reductions in buildings, then a shift of focus is needed away from regulation as a one-time gateway that only assesses the design and material aspects of a building. Instead, policy and regulation should consider alternatives which include an ongoing assessment of both the material and the social aspects of building operation, along with guidance and support to occupants.
As a conclusion, this papers document the need for policies to address the ways in which renewables such as PVs are regulated in the building codes and standards; to consider the ways in which professional actors within the building sector – from designers to plumbers and electricians – can script the ways in which occupants use the building and the technologies it contains as well as their provision of guidance to occupants; and to challenge conventions and ‘business as usual’ within the building sector.

y Innovation Fund Denmark
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