From Efficiency to Decency: Cultivating energy needs in urban communities
There is an urgent need to reduce the energy consumed by urban households. Despite current investments in energy efficient technologies, energy consumption continues to increase in cities. This thesis moves beyond the efficiency paradigm and its emphasis on reducing energy consumption, to understand instead how urban households’ energy demand can be challenged and reduced. How people frame their energy practices (driving, eating a hamburger, flying for work or leisure, etc.) and how these practices bundle configuring different lifestyles is strongly shaped by the social contexts where the individuals live and interact.
This research investigates one specific social context, that of the community, in order to unpack how the social interactions within community members lead to the activation of discursive processes that can challenge current energy intensive lifestyles. Despite the routinised character of most daily practices people still have the ability to verbally reflect on and alter their actions. The activation of this “energy discursive consciousness” is at the center of this work. An ethnographic action research with three Amsterdam-based communities helped to unpack how energy discursive consciousness is “cultivated” at the community level and how it ultimately may lead to the contestation and reduction of energy needs. The notion of “decency”, which entails considering standards of morality and appropriateness that go beyond the individual and affect society in general, serves as a trigger for community reflection on lifestyle choices and contributes to the shift from efficiency to decency.