An agenda for future Social Sciences and Humanities research on energy efficiency: 100 priority research questions

Chris Foulds*, Sarah Royston, Thomas Berker, Efi Nakopoulou, Zareen Pervez Bharucha, Rosie Robison, Simone Abram, Branko Ančić, Stathis Arapostathis, Gabriel Badescu, Richard Bull, Jed Cohen, Tessa Dunlop, Niall Dunphy, Claire Dupont, Corinna Fischer, Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Catherine Grandclément, Eva Heiskanen, Nicola LabancaMaria Jeliazkova, Helge Jörgens, Margit Keller, Florian Kern, Patrizia Lombardi, Ruth Mourik, Michael Ornetzeder, Peter J.G. Pearson, Harald Rohracher, Marlyne Sahakian, Ramazan Sari, Karina Standal, Lidija Živčič

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Decades of techno-economic energy policymaking and research have meant evidence from the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH)—including critical reflections on what changing a society’s relation to energy (efficiency) even means—have been underutilised. In particular, (i) the SSH have too often been sidelined and/or narrowly pigeonholed by policymakers, funders, and other decision-makers when driving research agendas, and (ii) the setting of SSH-focused research agendas has not historically embedded inclusive and deliberative processes. The aim of this paper is to address these gaps through the production of a research agenda outlining future SSH research priorities for energy efficiency. A Horizon Scanning exercise was run, which sought to identify 100 priority SSH questions for energy efficiency research. This exercise included 152 researchers with prior SSH expertise on energy efficiency, who together spanned 62 (sub-)disciplines of SSH, 23 countries, and a full range of career stages. The resultant questions were inductively clustered into seven themes as follows: (1) Citizenship, engagement and knowledge exchange in relation to energy efficiency; (2) Energy efficiency in relation to equity, justice, poverty and vulnerability; (3) Energy efficiency in relation to everyday life and practices of energy consumption and production; (4) Framing, defining and measuring energy efficiency; (5) Governance, policy and political issues around energy efficiency; (6) Roles of economic systems, supply chains and financial mechanisms in improving energy efficiency; and (7) The interactions, unintended consequences and rebound effects of energy efficiency interventions. Given the consistent centrality of energy efficiency in policy programmes, this paper highlights that well-developed SSH approaches are ready to be mobilised to contribute to the development, and/or to understand the implications, of energy efficiency measures and governance solutions. Implicitly, it also emphasises the heterogeneity of SSH policy evidence that can be produced. The agenda will be of use for both (1) those new to the energy-SSH field (including policyworkers), for learnings on the capabilities and capacities of energy-SSH, and (2) established energy-SSH researchers, for insights on the collectively held futures of energy-SSH research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number223
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This Horizon Scanning exercise was part of the EU Horizon 2020 funded project, Energy-SHIFTS, which reported directly to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). Part of this project’s remit was to provide direct advice and support to the European Commission on the directions of travel for SSH in EU Horizon 2020’s Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy Work Programme and in EU Horizon Europe’s Cluster 5 on Climate, Energy and Mobility. For more information, see: www.energy-shifts.eu . In the context of this paper, DG RTD was keen for SSH advice specifically on energy efficiency (rather than, e.g., using energy sufficiency as the foundational starting point) because of its ongoing commitments to fund research and innovation on energy efficiency (via e.g., EU SET-Plan).

Funding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 826025 (Energy-SHIFTS project). We are grateful to Quentin Genard (European Climate Foundation), Manon Dufour (E3G), Catherine Cooremans (Université de Lausanne), and Aled Jones and Emma Milroy (both ARU) for their insights and support during the Horizon Scanning exercise. We also thank our many energy-SSH colleagues for kindly submitting their research questions for consideration. Note that the first four co-authors acted as the Steering Committee for this Working Group, the fifth and sixth co-authors contributed to the conceptualisation and methodology of the Energy-SHIFTS Working Groups, and the latter 27 (alphabetised) co-authors kindly contributed in the capacity of Working Group members.

Funding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 826025 (Energy-SHIFTS project). We are grateful to Quentin Genard (European Climate Foundation), Manon Dufour (E3G), Catherine Cooremans (Université de Lausanne), and Aled Jones and Emma Milroy (both ARU) for their insights and support during the Horizon Scanning exercise. We also thank our many energy-SSH colleagues for kindly submitting their research questions for consideration. Note that the first four co-authors acted as the Steering Committee for this Working Group, the fifth and sixth co-authors contributed to the conceptualisation and methodology of the Energy-SHIFTS Working Groups, and the latter 27 (alphabetised) co-authors kindly contributed in the capacity of Working Group members.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

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