Journal article

Achieving sustainability transitions in residential energy use across Europe: The importance of problem framings

01 Oct 2019

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the residential sector is central to European energy policy. However, the speed and scale of sustainable energy transitions need to accelerate. There is a growing consensus that meeting energy targets is highly dependent on interrelated socio-material and cultural aspects of energy use. New ways of framing energy demand that go beyond dominant efficiency- and behavior models are needed. Recognizing these concerns, this paper reports on a review of 1067 Sustainable Energy Consumption Initiatives (SECIs) that aim to reduce residential energy use across 30 European countries. The initiatives are categorized and a corresponding Problem Framing Typology (PFT) is developed, highlighting important aspects of different types of problem framings. The typology contains four categories including 1) Changes in technology; 2) Changes in individual behavior; 3) Changes in everyday life situations; 4) and Changes in complex interactions. Applying the PFT to the 1067 SECIs shows that the vast majority (75%) of SECIs are positioned within category 1 and 2, indicating a lingering bias towards technocratic consumer behavioral strategies. The limitations of such approaches are discussed, and it is argued that systematically addressing interactions between technology, businesses, culture and everyday-life is more likely to lead to long-term transformation.


License Type: 
European Union's H2020 Research and Innovation program under grant agreement number 727642