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Can practice make perfect (models)? Incorporating social practice theory into quantitative energy demand models

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conference contribution
posted on 2014-10-02, 13:24 authored by Sarah L. Higginson, Eoghan McKenna, Murray Thomson
Demand response could be increasingly valuable in coping with the intermittency of a future renewables-dominated electricity grid. There is a growing body of work being done specifically on understanding demand response from a people and practices point of view. This paper will start by introducing some of the recent research in this area and will present social practice theory (SPT) as a useful way of looking at the flexibility and timing of energy-use practices. However, for the insights gained from SPT to have value for the electricity supply industry it is important to be able to represent this flexibility in quantitative energy demand models. This requires an interdisciplinary conversation that allows SPT and modelling concepts to be mapped together. This paper presents an initial step in trying to achieve this. Drawing on empirical data from a recent SPT study into flexible energy-use practices, it will experiment with modelling flexible demand in such a way as to take account of the complexity of practices; not just their ‘stuff’ but also some of the images and skills involved in their competent performance. There are several reasons this is a useful enterprise. It encourages interdisciplinary insights which are valuable both to social practice theory and to energy demand modelling, it highlights new ways of intervening in flexible demand and it establishes a research agenda for social practice theorists and modellers which will eventually result in a set of requirements that can be used to build an energy demand model based on practice theory. This area of research is in its early stages and so the conceptual mapping is necessarily speculative but, hopefully, also stimulating.


This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, UK, within the Realising Transition Pathways project (EP/K005316/1).



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Research Unit

  • Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST)

Published in

3rd Behave Energy Conference


17 - ?


HIGGINSON, S., MCKENNA, E. and THOMSON, M., 2014. Can practice make perfect (models)? Incorporating social practice theory into quantitative energy demand models. IN: Behave 2014 - Paradigm Shift: From Energy Efficiency to Energy Reduction through Social Change, 3rd Behave Energy Conference, Oxford, UK, 3-4 September 2014, 17 pp.


Behave Energy Conference


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is a conference paper.


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Oxford, UK

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