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Matching policy and people? Results from empirical research in Norway which explains why measures for sustainable electricity consumption often fail
In this lecture, Winther will summarise some of the central findings from her empirical research in Norway on how households respond to various measures that promote sustainable electricity
The measures include information about electricity’s sources where the researchers studied people’s willingness to pay extra for electricity labelled as 100 percent renewable (guarantees of origin), the use of energy efficient air-to-air heat pumps in people’s homes, and the effects of in-home-displays on electricity consumption and other aspects of living. The results showed that the outcomes of introducing the information measures, energy efficient technology and smart metering with display tended to not have the desired outcome of more sustainable electricity consumption. By showing the range of concerns people do care about – and matters they disregard – and comparing these realities with the assumptions underlying sustainable energy policies, Winther accounts for why this was so. Winther has collaborated with anthropologists working with energy at Durham University and EDF in France, and will provide some reflections on the differences between the electricity cultures in Norway, France and the UK. She will end the lecture by arguing that interdisciplinary research is needed to inform sustainable energy policies that have effect.
Winther’s work has taken two directions; one focusing on sustainable energy supply and consumption in the North, and the other on the social effects of electrification in the South. She employs practice theory and keeps a dual perspective on the systems of provision on the one hand and the social dynamics and effects of electricity consumption on the other. The gender dimension is central in her work, and she was invited to submit a background paper to the World Development Report 2012 (World Bank) on electricity and gender equality. Being one of the first anthropologists to focus on electrification (conducting long term fieldwork in Zanzibar, Tanzania) and the author of The Impact of Electricity: Development, Desires and Dilemmas (Berghahn 2008), she has on several occasions been invited to present her work during international conferences. In addition to her publications and engagement with the academic community, she also regularly presents results to policy makers, consultants and engineers. She lectures at the University of Oslo and Chancellor College in Malawi and is currently External Examiner in the Energy and Society Programme at Durham University.
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