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Energy Cultures – an actor-centred perspective on habitual behaviour and socio-technical change


The theoretical construct of ‘energy cultures’ has emerged from a seven-year research programme on energy and mobility behaviour. It has proved to be fruitful in investigations of the tendency for habituation amongst households and businesses, as well as providing insights into processes of change. Through this framing we have also identified energy cultures at different scales, from individual to sectoral to national. Using examples, I illustrate destabilising effects on habitual ‘energy cultures’ that can lead to rapid socio-technical change. 


Dr Stephenson is the Director of Centre for Sustainability at University of Otago, New Zealand. She is a social scientist with a strong interest in socio-technical transitions and societal responses to environmental challenges. Her research interests are in three main areas – socio-technical transitions in energy and mobility, indigenous resource management, and cultural values in landscapes. She was the science leader of the recently-completed 7-year Energy Cultures research programme, which examined energy and mobility behaviour through a cultural lens. She is also a researcher in the GREEN Grid project on the future of New Zealand’s electricity grid, and leads the Otago University team which is examining the implications of changing consumer expectations and technology uptake. She is the chair of the Board of the National Energy Research Institute.