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It’s time to focus on renewables for heat

A remarkable year for renewable energy

2015 signalled a promising shift in investment and production towards renewable energy. This was the first year that the majority of new electricity generation under construction was from renewables; that a new record for renewable investment was set; and that the leading source of electricity in the EU was from clean sources. Companies are pledging to be 100% renewable and a solar power plant has been developed that can run overnight.


The Paris Agreement was undoubtedly a catalyst, as evidenced by the investments announced during the COP21 talks. To name a few, this included the International Agency for Solar Technologies, a project led by India representing 120 countries pledged to invest $20 billion in solar by 2020; theBreakthrough Energy coalition, indicating more than 20 billionaires including Gates and Zuckerberg also committing $20 billion to clean energy technologies by 2020; and Dubai’s $27 billion to make solar panels mandatory on all their rooftops by 2030.


These are indeed exciting achievements that demonstrate that renewable technologies are now proven to be good investments and competitive with fossil fuel generation. Missing from these triumphs though is a distinction between types of energy and all these examples highlight that electricity is the priority.

Similarly, of the $329 billion invested in global clean energy in 2015, 56 per cent went to solar technologies and 38 per cent to wind. Even though it is exciting that 173 countries have set renewable energy targets, only 45 have targets for renewable heating.

Renewable electricity is not the whole story

It is becoming widely recognised that clean energy has a ‘bright future’. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear that about a fifth of energy consumption worldwide was from renewable sources in 2014. But almost half of this was from traditional biomass, which generally refers to the burning of wood or animal dung on open fires and low-efficiency stoves. While 40 per cent of the world’s population still relies on this biomass, this is not seen as a sustainable, nor desirable, form of heating or cooking, because it has severe implications for health as a result of indoor air pollution and is an indicator of social inequality.

Setting this unsustainable form of biomass aside leaves roughly a tenth of global energy consumption from modern renewable sources.

By energy type, renewables make up 25 per cent of electricity generation and 8 per cent of heating worldwide. But considering that heating is the majority of consumption, this actually means that about 5 per cent of all energy consumption is from renewable electricity sources and 4 per cent is from modern renewable heating.


Since heating is the main reason for consumption in almost every country, the shift towards renewables in this sector has a major impact and it cannot continue to be overlooked in decarbonisation strategies. Heating accounts forover half of energy consumption and a third of carbon emissions worldwide. In the UK, we may be obsessed with ‘keeping the lights on’ and think access to the Internet is necessary for a basic standard of living, but having a warm and dry shelter has been a fundamental concern for much longer and still is for much of the globe’s population.

Admittedly, the heating sector offers particular challenges for policy makers.


Heat is much less amenable to measurement and regulation since it is produced in millions of separate installations at widely varying sizes, from several different fuels, and at different temperatures. Heat metering thus is uncommon, making the development of renewable heating policies, as well as the assessment of their effectiveness, much more complex and difficult.


Energy-efficient houses have a considerably lower demand for space heating that can be met by smaller-scale, low-temperature heat installations. This creates opportunities for renewable energy sources such as heat pumps, but also means that emphasise on renewable heating technologies may be set aside in order to first improve efficiency of buildings.


Finally, the potential for electrification of heat and transport is often justification for the focus on renewable electricity. However, it is hard to imagine an entirely decarbonised electricity supply, so this should not distract from investing in renewable heating technologies as well.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that although this has been a remarkable year for renewables, heat is deserving of greater policy attention as it still makes up the majority of energy consumption. Our single-minded focus on electricity, an important step though insufficient on its own, illustrates the increasing potential for renewable technologies to surpass and replace the use of fossil fuels. Let’s use this evidence of the advances of renewable technologies to address a more worthy challenge: decarbonising our heating supply.


Mining Mumsnet on Solar Thermal

Recently, Katherine and I have been exploring Mumsnet as a means through which we might explore domestic energy prosumption. Specifically, we’ve been looking at discussions related to solar thermal prosumption, partly because they are a relatively mature and well-established technology, having been installed in 70 million homes worldwide (approximately 11% of these are for swimming pools, predominantly in the USA) (Muneer et al. 2015), but more importantly because they produce hot water, the consumption of which represents approximately 20% of household energy demand in the UK (and despite advances in efficiency, this has remained stable over the past forty years (DECC 2013a)). But really, we wanted to play around with unsolicited online data and figure out how we might use/analyse it, particularly because we view these online discussions as an extension of casual conversations revealing householder’s own areas of interest and concern (Veen et al. 2011). Despite this, and in spite of online and virtual methods (Hine 2013, Pink 2016), digital methods (Rogers 2015) and netnography (Kozinets 2010) being popular neologisms, they are seldom used in domestic energy or microgeneration research.

We developed an approach to systematically search and then analyse 7 discussion boards (we discarded 200 odd for being off topic or about PV, not solar thermal). In doing so, we learnt many things, not least about issues of ‘(n)etiquette’ (Eden 2015), and ‘netspeak’ (e.g. ‘DD’ means ‘darling daughter’) but we had to grapple (in a paper we have just submitted) with how to reference quotes taken from Mumsnet [if anyone knows of a good convention for such referencing, then please let us know!]. Without wishing to give too much away, since we hope to publish this work soon, we’ve been able to reflect on many aspects of microgeneration installation – from the role of advice, to the impact that the accompanying material configurations (e.g. larger water pipes) has on overall demand – and reveal limitations in the majority of literature on microgeneration technologies (Balcombe et al. 2013, Claudy et al. 2011, Michelsen & Madlener 2016, Sopha et al. 2011) which emphasize financial and environmental considerations as the key determinants of uptake. So, in this work looking at Mumsnet discussions, we’ve sought to demonstrate the complexity and messiness of energy demand (Shove et al., 2012), and show how technical improvements cannot be understood in isolation from everyday domestic life (Ellsworth-Krebs et al. 2015). In fact, Mumsnetter’s mention of solar thermal panels primarily arose as part of wider discussions about delivering expectations related to hot water (e.g. plentiful, powerful, hot) through renovation, which is difficult to appreciate if one is only interested in undertaking a ‘rational’ approach (e.g. money-driven) towards understanding solar panel uptake and use.

There are clearly many implications of such work, not least the type of data and (its analysis) that we as researchers are prepared to use. So we are left wondering about other ways in which unsolicited online data may be used to provide greater insights into the messiness of everyday energy demand. Next week we will be welcoming some visitors to St Andrews to participate in our Digimethods seminar. Discussions about which data to use, why, and how will be central to our work. More info on this to follow, but if you’d like to join our network/discussion on household sustainability and online methods please get in touch as will be planning future events.

online/offline, virtual/digital, solicited/unsolicited: doing research online

This summer, things have really been heating up on the project as we get stuck into data collection. All of our data collection relies on the internet to some extent, whether extending traditional ‘offline’ social science instruments to be used in online environments (e.g. online diaries) or ‘natively digital’ (Rogers 2013) approaches (more on this later). Whilst doing research online was initially attractive because it offered some apparent novelty, what Katherine and I understand ‘the digital’ to be has evolved quite considerably.

Like many other social scientists, the ubiquity of the internet and devices which allow people to use and contribute to it, have encouraged both Katherine and myself to explore how we can harness the internet in our research. This interest was sparked after a presentation by Sarah Royston at Behave 2014, where she undertook an online ethnography to understand domestic energy practices. Like Sarah, we see this area as potentially fruitful for domestic energy research, particularly since the number of people (and therefore potential research participants) who are active online is enormous, and because of the ways in which future domestic life will be determined by and determining the internet. Yet, how we might go about undertaking such research is not quite as clear cut as we first imagined…

What we understand ‘the digital’ to be, how it relates to everyday life, our role as researchers, and how we might engage with it, are difficult questions to address. Naively, I wrote a funding bid in which I said I would undertake a ‘netnography’ without fully understanding the wider social science methods debates within which netnography exists. As I have since discovered, a wide variety of approaches exist which are quite distinctive in the way that they deal with, for example: online/offline; structure/agency; human/nonhuman; animate/inanimate (although we must desist from using binaries!). Others have provided helpful histories of how social science has researched the internet, so I won’t bore you all by repeating them here. However, it is useful to highlight the most recent debates, those which concern the distinction between virtual and digital methods, since this is relevant to our current work.

As far as we can tell, virtual methods (we use this term loosely), largely informed by sociology and anthropology, are essentially an extension of traditional social science methods (e.g. questionnaires, surveys, ethnography) used to undertake research on the internet (e.g. online questionnaires, online/virtual ethnography). The approach predates that of digital methods and, using critical thinking, has highlighted that there is no real difference between online and offline worlds. Netnography, articulated most fully for market research, may therefore be regarded as a form of virtual method since it is concerned with extending existing ‘offline’ approaches to online environments. Arguably, what makes netnography distinctive is that it is fairly prescriptive in terms of the specific steps which are undertaken, so if we understand virtual methods as an epistemology, netnography is one of its techniques.

By contrast, digital methods is a more recent development, led primarily by social scientists interested in new media and computational social science. The main difference between virtual and digital approaches as far as I can see, is that digital methods use methods and data which are ‘born’ in the internet. Digital methods use techniques such as crawling, scraping, crowd sourcing, folksonomy, and recommendation systems to gather and analyse data, using objects and content that originates online. So, one might undertake analysis of searches undertaken using search engines to explore how society responds to particular events (cf. research on flu epidemics), or might use hyperlinks to explore social networks. The idea is that this type of research would not be possible ‘offline’ because these techniques and the data they rely on are not available. Digital methods then is research with the internet, not research on/using the internet, as is the case in virtual methods (or any other predecessor).

Grappling with these different debates has been a steep learning curve for us, not least because the field is developing quickly. For now we are thinking about what these developments mean for our research and for domestic energy demand research more generally, as well as how we might add to these debates. Indeed, it seems we are straddling the virtual/digital divide in our research, which is something we will need to get to grips with. Likewise, we are interested in the distinction between solicited and unsolicited data (something not really explored in digital methods as far as I can see) since some of our data are solicited and some unsolicited. Moreover, in our solicited work, we are asking participants to use an app on their smartphones. This also means we should be mindful of the way in which different devices influence the data which are generated, and more broadly how devices are implicit in new knowledge generation across social science. So, just from this brief blog, you can see how what started as a rather naive project which sought to take advantage of the internet, has opened up (for us at least) a new set of debates we were completely ignorant of. At the very least, I have learnt much more about designing appropriate ‘queries’ (e.g. the form and format of keywords I should use when undertaking an online search), and how search engines influence the nature of research to an extent that I had not realised.

Thankfully, in our forthcoming seminar, we hope to hear from a range of other academics working with online/virtual/digital methods so that we can collectively get to grips with the complexities and messiness of research with the internet.

Who is the new Research Fellow?

Since Louise will no longer be the sole manager of this Smarter Homes? website it seemed time that I (Katherine) introduced myself properly.

I have recently submitted my PhD entitled ‘Home-ing in on domestic energy research: home comfort and energy demand’ and my viva voce will be two weeks from today! A bit about me before I go onto my research interests…

I am a bit of a dork in the sense that I really enjoy reading and talking about academic skills such as writing and teaching. For example, I can rarely resist discussing the helpful and inspiring work of Pat Thomson and UEA’s ‘comedy in the classroom’ (if you haven’t heard of either of them have a look).

I am a huge advocate for being part of community projects and I have been an active member of our local Transition Initiative since it started in 2010! More recently (2012) I co-founded a bicycle rental and maintenance scheme which I am very proud of, especially when I see our branded bikes around town!

bike pool

If you follow me on twitter, you will probably already know about my Patter obsession, Bike Pool pride, and enjoyment of using dancing gifs.

My research is motivated by providing evidence of and alternatives to techno-centric thinking that often dominates sustainability discourses. In the context of domestic energy research, I’ve written about this as the difference between researching the ‘house’ and ‘home’: suggesting that awarding the ontological priority to the ‘home’ results in scholarship which considers both social and physical aspects that shape demand. Conversely, research prioritising the ‘house’ is dominated by techno-economic thinking, and overlooks critical social considerations. This is an important distinction considering that despite several decades of a dominance of research on the house, these methods have failed to adequately explain variation across populations and reduce energy demand, making the utility of studying the interaction between social and physical elements of the home increasingly apparent.

In my reading of energy, building and sustainability scholarship I found the concept of comfort to be influential to both notions of home and the ‘practice turn’ (i.e. Shove’s (2003) Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience) and therefore to a more nuanced understanding of domestic energy demand. The aim of my thesis therefore was to develop a concept of home comfort to inform understandings, debates and policy related to domestic energy demand, and I present data from whole-household interviews, house tours, ideal drawings and home energy adviser interviews to address this aim. [For a snappier piece on why we should be talking more about comfort, see my post in the ConversationOur obsession with comfort is the carbon conundrum everyone ignores’].

The main contribution of my thesis has been to argue that, contrary to popular opinion, there is much more to occupant satisfaction and home comfort than being sufficiently warm or cool. The assumption that comfort means thermal comfort leads to a narrow set of strategies to intervene in or ‘steer’ energy-demanding practices. While a focus on thermal heating is justified in the sense that space heating is the biggest single demand for a household, roughly 2/3 in the UK, increasing demands for space heating are also the result of other expectations of home beyond shifting indoor temperatures and practices of thermal regulation.  For example, privacy and personal space are paramount to individuals having to share the home and negotiate other householder’s preferences and everyday routines. Expecting to have a bedroom or study to retreat to has implications for space heating as much as standardisation of the comfort zone or increasing reliance on mechanical heating and cooling.

Based on my development of a framework of home comfort, the assumption that comfort is thermal comfort appears to be unjustified because there is much more to home life that affects home management and home improvements. Redefining home comfort as relaxation that comes from both having companionship and sharing the home as well as having a sense of control and privacy draws attention to bigger trends in household and house sizes that significantly shape energy demand per person. Refocusing onto how to engage with and understand expectations of space per person is an important recommendation for domestic energy researchers and importantly emerges from investigation of the meaning of home comfort.


Enough on my PhD though, I am delighted at the opportunity to be able to continue working alongside Louise (who has been an incredible PhD supervisor) as well as be part of a project which in many ways compliments the theoretical and methodological ideas underpinning my PhD research. I am excited to explore domestic energy demand further: continuing to critique techno-centric thinking, focusing in on microgeneration technologies (e.g. building on our previous paper on energy prosumption), and exploring the use of innovative methods (e.g. join our seminar on online and digital methodologies!!).

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the Smarter Homes? project or anything else!



Practicing baby bedtime & the link to energy

A year ago today, I became a parent (and helps to explain my absence on here!). Becoming a parent has made me reflect on how we use our homes in different ways at different times; and the implications this may have for energy demand. In this, my first proper blog since returning to work, I hope to illustrate how, using the example of temperature, my relationship with my own home has changed as a consequence of having a baby.

To be a good parent is to keep your baby safe. To be a good parent is to keep your baby warm, not too warm, but just the right amount of warm. As newborn babies have an inability to regulate their own temperature, becoming too warm or too cold is problematic, and has been recognised as one of the key causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), commonly known as ‘Cot Death’ in the case of the former. The danger of overheating therefore ranks highly as one of the concerns of a new parent, at least in my case. But it seems I’m not alone; a quick search on Mumsnet reveals 667 unique message threads with the words ‘newborn room temperature’ in them.

When we think about this from a practice perspective, which highlights the interconnected elements of materials, competencies and meanings[1], the relationality of the many different aspects of babies’ sleeping come to the fore. Taking these elements in turn, and dealing with materiality of bedtime first, many are complicit in this practice: the cot/moses basket, the room (whether large or small, north or south-facing, carpeted or bare floors); the sheets (terry towelling, fleece, cotton); the blankets or sleeping bag (which itself can be a range of weights or togs, shapes and designs); the baby monitor (ours had an integrated thermometer meaning that the parent unit would beep if it was too warm or too cold); thermometers (which come with the sleeping bags); radiators, or in our case, an oil filled thermostat electric radiator which we plug in on cold nights. This is not an exhaustive list of materials by any means, but it begins to highlight the extent to which the many and different materials are implicated in the particular practice of bedtime.

Importantly, these materials require certain competencies in order to be used ‘properly’. For instance, how to put the baby to sleep (on their back, feet to the foot of the cot, with just the ‘right’ number of blankets for the temperature (remembering that a folded blanket counts as two blankets)) and the appropriate room temperature (about 18 degrees Celsius as recommended by the NHS) is knowledge passed on at ante natal classes, reinforced by midwives, health visitors and often in instructions that come with baby sleep products. But these skills, or competencies, develop over time too. The ability to judge the temperature of the room without the use of a thermometer, or to choose the right amount of layers to dress the baby for bed, or to anticipate how the home may cool overnight are new skills that accumulate as the practice evolves and changes in relation to the age of the child, the season, and the outside temperature, for example.

Such competencies are influenced as much by social and cultural meanings as by materials. Bedtime is an important component which both structures and is structured by the day, and a baby’s sleeping practices are imbued with meanings to do with safety and security, love and care, comfort and cosiness. Parenthood is a time when many are quick to offer advice, particularly around issues of sleep (or lack thereof). There can be a lot of pressure to instigate the ‘right’ bedtime routines, or to ensure your baby is getting the ‘right’ amount of sleep. Yet, just as these materials and competencies change over time (for instance, the advice when I was a baby was to put babies down to sleep on their front rather than their back), so too do meanings. ‘Crying-it-out’ as was encouraged when I was a baby, have been replaced with more gentle/attachment parenting styles. So, how we conceive of baby sleep, and attached meanings, have changed.

When I returned to work, it took a few weeks to adjust. It was a surreal feeling; somehow everything had changed yet nothing had. I realised that it was me that had changed, rather than where I worked or who I worked with. Such recognition caused me to reflect on the way in which parenthood had also changed the relationship I have with my home: the place that shelters my family. From the example of temperature, and by exploring the practice of bedtime, I can see how our changing family dynamics are changing how we use our home, and the practices that we enact. It has also caused me to reflect on the importance of performance, how practices are enacted (and that they vary by parent i.e. practitioner to practitioner), how they are embodied (e.g. the sensory nature of temperature and an ability to ‘feel’ when the temperature is ‘just right’), and their subjectivities (e.g. on Mumsnet there was an interesting thread started by a Russian citizen living in the UK who found the cooler temperatures encouraged by health professionals here to be at odds from their own experience). What it has also revealed is that the way in which the practice is practiced does create different implications for energy. A focus on room temperature rather than body temperature, involves different materials, competencies and meanings – and more or less energy. The way in which our home is heated has changed, a previously unused and hence cold bedroom (where the radiator was routinely off) has come into use. This ‘use’ differs too across the year in accordance with the season, and daily rhythms (our son goes to bed earlier than us so his room needs to be warmer earlier in the evening).

To conclude, it seems to me that the way in which we think academics about homes/housing needs to reflect the ever-changing ways in which we use them. Personally, embarking on parenthood has changed many ways in which we interact with our home, not least in relation to temperature. So perhaps, as academics, when we think about energy demand, we should be thinking about homes rather than houses, and not of energy per se, but the practices that create demand for energy – and intervening in those.

[1] roughly speaking and depending on which theorist one prefers

Back in the room

This blog has sadly been neglected of late, but with good reason, as I (Louise) have been off having a baby. Work has not stalled, however, and below are some updates about our activities. There will be a few (overdue) blog posts which appear in the coming days…keep your eyes peeled.

First of all, I’m pleased to say that Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs, one of my (soon to be former) PhD students, who has just submitted her PhD and will be undertaking her viva in a few weeks, is being employed by CHR to help with work on the Smarter Homes agenda. Katherine is going to be a real asset to the work.

On that note, she and I had our second paper published together earlier this year, when I was off on maternity leave. Entitled “Conceptualising energy prosumption: Exploring energy production,consumption and microgeneration in Scotland, UK” and published in the journal of Environment and Planning A, it brings together our shared work in Scotland on domestic microgeneration. We think it makes an important conceptual contribution by bringing the wealth of prosumption scholarship to discussion of the concept of ‘energy prosumption’ – a term which has been increasingly used in grey and academic literature as more communities and households are producing and consuming their own electricity and heat. The paper also presents novel empirical findings about householders experience of installing and living with microgeneration technologies, an area currently being overlooked in the majority of renewable energy research. Furthermore, it reflects on the utility of the UK government’s funding for microgeneration through the Feed-In Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive and the suitability of different technologies at the household scale. As an aside, our first paper together, based on Katherine’s PhD work, called ‘Home-ing in on domestic energy research: ‘house’, ‘home’ and the importance of ontology’ is available here, and you may also be interested to read Katherine’s latest piece on The Conversation here.

Secondly, we recently found out that we were successful in applying for an ESRC Festival of Social Science Event. More info can be found on our public engagement page. This is great news and really exciting for us – hopefully this will result in some really interesting discussions and teaching materials. It is fantastic to think that pupils all across Scotland will be using data from our project.

Thirdly, and building on the energy efficiency and stigma theme, I, with Kim and Joe at CHR, had a paper published in Energy Research and Social Science entitled ‘Exploring the Stigmatizatoin of Energy Efficiency in the UK: an emerging research agenda‘. This was a theoretical piece, in response to calls for social scientists to engage with energy research. In it, we outline the nature of the relationship between energy efficiency and stigma and present our emerging research agenda, which draws theoretical influence from Sociology and Housing Studies. Watch this space for more work in this area.

Fourthly, we were successful in getting a new fully funded ESRC Collaborative PhD studentship. This prestigious award, with Dr Mags Currie and Dr Kate Irvine from the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, will start in September. One of only 8 awards across all of social science in Scotland, the project is entitled ‘SHOW – health Smart Homes for Older peoples’ Wellbeing’. This studentship will critically examine the utility of ‘health smart homes’ (HSH) to enhance the wellbeing of older people in rural Scotland. We are delighted too that Rachel Creaney, a research assistant at the James Hutton Institute, will be taking up the studentship.

Lastly, we have a number of conferences coming up over the next few months, TEDDINET and Sustainable Housing, to name but a couple. Hope to see you there.

Behave: reflections

At the beginning of last month I presented at the Behave 2014 conference: ‘Paradigm Shift: From Energy Efficiency to Energy Reduction through Social Change’ At it, I presented our emerging results on the prosumption work. But I don’t really want to reflect on that presentation, rather on how we conceptualise energy demand, and specifically my own experiences of doing this. Such reflection has also been fueled by ongoing discussions with my PhD students and conversations with researchers in the policy and practice communities who are likewise struggling to get some grasp on the ever-changing theoretical fetishization of human action.
All of my research to date could be understood as being concerned with everyday domestic activities and the relationship between these and environmental impacts. When I started my PhD, I was seduced by what I call ‘behavioural approaches’ – those which largely belong to the psychological and economic traditions. Towards the end of this work, I became involved Elizabeth Shove’s ‘Social Change Climate Party’ a group of PhD researchers who were all working on topics of consumption, theories of practice and environmental change and often exploring innovative methodologies. (read more about our activities here: My experiences in this SCCP challenged my understanding of human action, and I have watched, over the past few years, this tension between behavioural and practice approaches unfold.

Commentaries between Elizabeth Shove (2010, 2012) and Lorraine Whitmarsh (2011) have come to symbolise these tensions and the incompatibility between behavioural and practice approaches. These commentaries, which ostensibly surrounded how different intellectual traditions are drawn upon by policy communities to frame problems such as climate change, and how these traditions are implicated in the ‘solutions’ to such problems, reflect entrenched ontological positions. The disagreement is not simply a matter of semantics, but of radically different ways of understanding the world, such that the idea that practice and behaviour could be conflated: ‘behaviours as physical manifestations of practices’ (Wilson and Chatterton 2011, p. 2781); does not do justice to the extent of ontological difference. The exchanges between Shove and Whitmarsh are therefore helpful in drawing attention to the provenance of research approaches: 1) on behaviour, premised around understandings of the atomistic individual whose cognitive processes underlie decision-making; and, 2) on practices, which consider action to be representative of the competing socially embedded rationalities of everyday life, focusing on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘doer’. The contribution of geographers to these discussions has been notable (Barr and Gilg 2005, Gregson et al., 2007, Hobson 2006), with recent scholarship attempting to find synergies between these disparate positions and literatures (Hargreaves 2011, Hargreaves et al., 2013, Schwanen et al., 2011).

Whilst many of my SCCP colleagues have gone on to successfully publish many articles on this tension (Hargreaves 2010), and have adopted the practice approach, I have been more reluctant. Certainly the practice approach is inherently sensible and convincing. Yet I remain slightly suspicious, which I think is because of a concern about practice approaches being zeitgeist. Not least, to wholeheartedly reject behavioural approaches would be to concede that work I have undertaken adopting this approach is now of limited value. At Behave 2014, I was struck (and reassured) that I am not the only one with these thoughts, and since then I have been reflecting on this.

Allied to this was a call, by numerous presenters at Behave 2014, to relinquish terms such as efficiency and others which have been inherited from engineers to reflect the idea that householders do not really connect with such thinking. Thus, it is not the energy or technologies per se that we as social scientists should concern ourselves with, but the services, lifestyles, and practices that energy makes possible (cf Shove). Behave 2014 was therefore a helpful and timely reminder that we should pay attention to where the terms we come from, and the ontological tradition(s) they reflect. I am now wondering how/if I can do research on domestic energy efficiency without using the term efficiency.