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Sociopsychological Perspectives on the Active Roles of Domestic Actors in Transition to a Lower Carbon Electricity Economy


  • Michael Nye

    (School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR2 3JG, England)

  • Lorraine Whitmarsh

    (School of Psychology, University of Cardiff, Tower Building, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, Wales)

  • Timothy Foxon

    (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, England)


This paper explores the active roles that domestic consumers might play in different transition pathways to a lower carbon electricity economy. It begins with a review of psychological and sociological perspectives on the drivers for everyday energy-use patterns, situating these in the context of the body of research on transitions in sociotechnical systems. On the basis of the review, a social-science-based framework is proposed for analysing the active ways in which domestic actors might facilitate or support the transition to a lower carbon economy. Applying the framework to an analysis of centralised and decentralised transitions pathways suggests that domestic actors can play an active role in transition through establishing new routine and conventional uses of energy in everyday life. Domesticating lower carbon technologies such as smart meters and microgeneration equipment supports the disruption of unsustainable energy-using routines and could help to make energy consumption and energy costs more visible and relevant to the everyday lives of domestic users. The findings call attention to the need to consider the wider effects of energy-system transition within and around consumer-oriented lifestyles.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Nye & Lorraine Whitmarsh & Timothy Foxon, 2010. "Sociopsychological Perspectives on the Active Roles of Domestic Actors in Transition to a Lower Carbon Electricity Economy," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 42(3), pages 697-714, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:envira:v:42:y:2010:i:3:p:697-714

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    1. Mah, Daphne Ngar-yin & van der Vleuten, Johannes Marinus & Hills, Peter & Tao, Julia, 2012. "Consumer perceptions of smart grid development: Results of a Hong Kong survey and policy implications," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 204-216.
    2. Gui, Emi Minghui & Diesendorf, Mark & MacGill, Iain, 2017. "Distributed energy infrastructure paradigm: Community microgrids in a new institutional economics context," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 1355-1365.
    3. Foxon, Timothy J., 2013. "Transition pathways for a UK low carbon electricity future," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 10-24.
    4. Phillips, Martin & Dickie, Jennifer, 2019. "Moving to or from a carbon dependent countryside," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 253-268.
    5. Julia Kurek & Justyna Martyniuk-Pęczek, 2020. "Looking for the Optimal Location of an Eco-District within a Metropolitan Area: The Case of Tricity Metropolitan Area," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(19), pages 1-22, September.
    6. Ngar-yin Mah, Daphne & van der Vleuten, Johannes Marinus & Chi-man Ip, Jasper & Ronald Hills, Peter, 2012. "Governing the transition of socio-technical systems: A case study of the development of smart grids in Korea," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 133-141.
    7. Rosalyn A. V. Robison & Cathrine V. Jansson-Boyd, 2013. "Perspectives on Sustainability: Exploring the Views of Tenants in Supported Social Housing," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(12), pages 1-23, December.
    8. Hargreaves, Tom & Nye, Michael & Burgess, Jacquelin, 2013. "Keeping energy visible? Exploring how householders interact with feedback from smart energy monitors in the longer term," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 126-134.
    9. Balcombe, Paul & Rigby, Dan & Azapagic, Adisa, 2013. "Motivations and barriers associated with adopting microgeneration energy technologies in the UK," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 655-666.
    10. Grant-Muller, Susan & Usher, Mark, 2014. "Intelligent Transport Systems: The propensity for environmental and economic benefits," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 149-166.
    11. Soyoung Yoo & Jiyong Eom & Ingoo Han, 2020. "Factors Driving Consumer Involvement in Energy Consumption and Energy-Efficient Purchasing Behavior: Evidence from Korean Residential Buildings," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(14), pages 1-20, July.
    12. Iliopoulos, Nikolaos & Esteban, Miguel & Kudo, Shogo, 2020. "Assessing the willingness of residential electricity consumers to adopt demand side management and distributed energy resources: A case study on the Japanese market," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    13. Luciana Maria Miu & Natalia Wisniewska & Christoph Mazur & Jeffrey Hardy & Adam Hawkes, 2018. "A Simple Assessment of Housing Retrofit Policies for the UK: What Should Succeed the Energy Company Obligation?," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(8), pages 1-22, August.
    14. Bale, Catherine S.E. & McCullen, Nicholas J. & Foxon, Timothy J. & Rucklidge, Alastair M. & Gale, William F., 2013. "Harnessing social networks for promoting adoption of energy technologies in the domestic sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 833-844.
    15. Whitmarsh, Lorraine, 2012. "How useful is the Multi-Level Perspective for transport and sustainability research?," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 483-487.
    16. Perri, Cecilia & Giglio, Carlo & Corvello, Vincenzo, 2020. "Smart users for smart technologies: Investigating the intention to adopt smart energy consumption behaviors," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 155(C).
    17. Hynes, Mike, 2016. "Developing (tele)work? A multi-level sociotechnical perspective of telework in Ireland," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 21-31.
    18. Balta-Ozkan, Nazmiye & Davidson, Rosemary & Bicket, Martha & Whitmarsh, Lorraine, 2013. "Social barriers to the adoption of smart homes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 363-374.
    19. Salla Annala & Satu Viljainen & Merja Pakkanen & Kristiina Hukki, 2016. "Consumer preferences in engaging in a sustainable lifestyle," International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 10(1), pages 1-18.
    20. Timothy J. Foxon & Jonathan Köhler & Jonathan Michie & Christine Oughton, 2013. "Towards a new complexity economics for sustainability," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(1), pages 187-208.

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