Exploring the Role of Digital Interventions in Realising Energy Savings

Bremer, Christina and Knowles, Bran and Friday, Adrian (2024) Exploring the Role of Digital Interventions in Realising Energy Savings. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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A strategy for mitigating the ongoing climate crisis is to reduce global energy consumption; as part of this strategy, digital technologies have been used for building automation and behaviour change interventions. However, while these technologies get invested in and relied upon, there remain questions about their overall effectiveness. Focusing on buildings, as their operation is responsible for around 30% of global energy consumption, this thesis explores the role of digital interventions in realising energy savings through both empirical and literature work. Using the Lancaster University campus as a case study, the thesis presents the results from expert interviews and a longitudinal analysis of energy data from 2016 until 2021, including during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews reveal a tendency among experts to problematise occupant behaviour and to trust data-based automation of energy systems as a key to lowering energy consumption. In contrast, the longitudinal analysis shows relatively few energy savings during COVID-19 lockdown periods, suggesting high building baseload and limited potential of digital interventions. Constituting a well-established set of mechanisms that counteract efficiency savings, the thesis then addresses rebound effects: based on a literature mapping showing that rebound effects have received little attention in energy efficiency research, systems thinking and the combination of efficiency with sufficiency strategies are encouraged. The limitations of digital energy-saving interventions, in particular behaviour change technology, have also been discussed in the sustainable HCI (SHCI) community. A literature review of SHCI critique papers and recent publications uncovers that to overcome these limitations, the community has been called to contribute beyond its HCI skillset. Here, I propose "green policy informatics" as an alternative contribution pathway that is characterised by ambitious climate policies. The thesis concludes with a discussion of prevalent narratives around digital energy-saving interventions, policy considerations and future work.

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Thesis (PhD)
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Research Output Funding/yes_externally_funded
?? yes - externally funded ??
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Deposited On:
02 May 2024 09:15
Last Modified:
12 Jun 2024 23:55