Profile II: Energy Cultures at Otago ...
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Rebecca Ford
Profile II: Energy Cultures at Otago University
Behaviour, Blog, Hub profiles

Who are we?

The Energy Cultures team is a group of researchers with an interest in the way in which people use energy in their homes, their transportation, and their work.

The team members are mainly based at the University of Otago, and span the physical sciences, social sciences, economics, marketing, management, and law. We each bring different perspectives and skills, and by working together we take a holistic approach to understanding how and why we use energy, and what it takes to change energy behaviour.

The Energy Cultures Framework

EC framework

To help us work together, the team developed the Energy Cultures Framework, which helps give a holistic perspective of the driver of energy behaviour.

The Energy Cultures framework helps us to understAnd energy behaviour as the interaction between a household’s ‘material culture’ (buildings and enrgy-related appliances), their energy practices (turning on heaters, drying laundry etc.) and their norms (what people accept as ‘normal’). Our research is based around investigating how these three elements influence each other, and how they are influenced in turn by external conditions, such as building regulations, energy prices, social marketing and so on (the shaded boxes are only examples, there are of course many more influences).

What have we found so far?

So far we have conducted research to look at peoples’ values and rationalisations for energy saving behaviours; we’ve looked at what is important to people when they are considering new heating and hot water systems; we’ve rolled out a national household survey on energy use and behaviours and from it identified 4 different clusters in the population with quite different ‘energy cultures’; we’ve identified key influences on people making energy-related changes in the home; we’ve trialled two different ways of providing energy advice to households; and we’ve identified areas for improvement in NZ’s legal and policy framework. For more detail of our findings to date click here.

Pulling the different strands of our research together has shown that improving energy effectiveness does not have a “one size fits all” solution – there are clusters of people with different ‘cultures’ and preferences, and it is worth targeting these groups with crafted interventions. We have also learnt that people require different types of support at different parts of the energy change process.  Trustworthy “experts” are an invaluable part of the process.

Why we are part of the hub

Each member of the Energy Cultures team is passionate about trying to encourage more effective use of energy so that homes are warm and dry, energy is used efficiently, and carbon emissions are reduced. We want to learn from practitioners working with households, and we want to be able to share our research findings so that we have a bigger impact where it matters. We also want to know what questions practitioners have, and whether we can help to find answers. We hope that by being a member of the Practitioners Hub, and having conversations with practitioners working on the ground, we can learn from each other, and help identify where research is still needed.

For further information please contact Rebecca Ford (


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