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Mainstreaming best practices in energy demand

  • Sylvia Breukers
  • Julia Backhaus
  • Oksana Mont
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Publication/Series: ECEEE 2011
Document type: Conference paper
Publisher: ECEEE

Abstract english

It is becoming increasingly clear that we need an integrated

approach to understanding and encouraging transitions towards

a sustainable energy system. Current overall unsustainable

‘practices’ are locked into cultural, material, institutional

and infrastructural settings. This limits the scope for individual

choice and action. Even when actions are taken on individual

or project level, they often remain stand-alone niche experiments

and little further diffusion takes place. This paper addresses

this problem by investigating how new more sustainable

practices in the field of energy demand at the micro level

can become mainstream and how energy demand side management

projects can encourage this.

We first discuss how a multilevel systems approach and practice

theory may be fruitfully combined to address the problem

of mainstreaming. Second, we analyse four empirical cases of

energy demand side management. We explore efforts at diffusing

these sustainable energy practices, the encountered challenges,

employed solutions and achieved outcomes with the

goal of learning about opportunities to mainstream best practices

in the field of energy demand. The analysis reveals that the

case that involved the most radical innovation faced the highest

resistance to mainstreaming from the incumbent system. The

more incremental initiatives were more successful at diffusing,

but had rather modest outcomes in terms of environmental and

efficiency gains. An important finding is that in order to shift

everyday practices to a more sustainable direction, an understanding

of possibilities to trigger changes in social norms is

needed. When these changes are quite invasive, more time for

negotiation and discussion might be needed before they become

regarded as legitimate. Furthermore, connecting supply

and demand (instead of merely addressing the demand side)

can be crucial in mainstreaming sustainable energy practices.

Although lessons learned from the cases do not offer clear-cut

‘do’s and don’ts’ for future efforts, they do highlight important

issues for mainstreaming sustainable practices. These issues

can sometimes be addressed within the scope of a single energy

demand side project, but often policy has an important

facilitating role to play in making sustainable energy practices

legitimate and mainstream.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • energy demand
  • management behaviour
  • practces


ECEEE 2011
E-mail: oksana [dot] mont [at] iiiee [dot] lu [dot] se


The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics

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Tegnérsplatsen 4, Lund


International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)

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Visiting Address: Tegnérsplatsen 4,Lund

Telephone: + 46 46 222 00 00 Fax: + 46 46 222 02 10