Insights from social practice and social learning theory for sustainable energy consumption

Special Report: Energy Uses in Homes: a Bottom-up Perspective on Energy Transition
By Harold Wilhite

The research domain aimed at theorizing a transformation to low energy use has suffered from weak representations of the social and material contributors to energy consumption. In the dominating theory that informs policy, consumption is theorized as an exercise done by sovereign individuals who deploy cognitive knowledge in economically rationale ways in order to achieve instrumental ends. Over the past decade, a number of social scientists from differing academic disciplines have contributed to the development and application of social practice theory to an understanding of everyday energy consumption. This theory has promise for renewing energy consumption theory and providing a basis for new directions in energy savings policy. This article lays out promising theoretical insights from social practice theory and give examples of new categories of polices for stimulating low-energy practices. Special attention is given to how practices form and change, as well as the relationship between practice transformations and experience-grounded learning.

Go to the article on