New blog series: energy use, energy demand, saving options (and other stuff)

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A persistent research interest of mine has been: How to save energy (how and why and where and by whom). Goes without saying, our energy and resources expenditure is on an unsustainable level and solutions and actions are needed rapidly. Few years ago, I studied energy consumption in extremely energy-poor communities in India, and one important conclusion of mine was that there is much to learn from the people who are living in scarcity, if we are to learn to save energy. The poor communities were very cautious with all types of consumption, but mainly because they had to. More about my doctoral project could be read here. An important question remained bothering me: is it only poverty that makes people thrift, smart and careful? The extreme-poor might use the same amount of electrical energy within a week, than a wealthy Nordic inhabitant uses within a moment, just by living in an air-conditionend house. Is this a relevant comparison to make? Is there anything to do with the over-use of energy and materials among the rich and the wealthy? How to alleviate energy poverty?

On one hand my scientific interests are connected with energy, energy use, energy practices, demand response and energy efficiency, but also with the ideas of energy justice, frugality and degrowth (in a material and consumerist sense). I would like to explore whether it is the economics, money, personal preference, habit, social structure, mindset, lifestyle, fashion, correct information, technical system, policy, law, prohibition, or even some external force, or something else, or their dependencies and interferences, that could make us individuals and societies smarter with energy and resources. Especially I would like to explore, what types of actions might have a significance (and those who don’t). For instance, turning off a (LED) light in a lecture room (still) has an important rhetoric effect while speaking about energy-saving, but everybody knows that it is relatively insignificant on a large scale.

On another hand, I have my technological interests (probably come through my schooling). As energy systems are technical, they often include technical sub-systems or solutions that control consumption. A small pice of electronics, a fuse, is integral in all homes with electricity supply. Fuse is an excellent example of a technical device that limits the amount of energy used. Then there are solutions that target to energy consumption shifts in a time space, such as pricing incentives, thus trying to cut the peaks. Or many demand-side-management equipment available for users to monitor their consumption (for various reasons, including RES integration). However, I am not sure what will be their global energy saving or sustainability impact, because most of them do not touch the roots of consumption or the demand itself. Generally I find many technology-centered strategies that try to “master” a standard consumer rather unambitious, as they typically offer only a couple of per cent savings (in units of energy; resource efficiency might be even worse). But there are also promising ideas in the world! I want to explore and study the roles of technologies in sustainability transitions.

In this blog series I plan to reflect some side streams of my actual research projects and present insight that get excluded from other publications. There will probably also be some personal stories. Opinions presented are purely my own. With this introduction I would like to welcome you to also to send me feedback (e.g. per email or through Twitter), if you liked some writing, or have a critique or note to make. Thank you and enjoy!