Comparing 16 Energy Living Labs across 8 Countries: Methodological Challenges, Limits and Hazards

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Laure DOBIGNY, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Marlyne SAHAKIAN, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Efforts to improve and reduce household energy consumption are on the rise across Europe, with everyday people increasingly seen as playing a key role in the energy transition. The EU Horizon 2020 ENERGISE research project aims to understand the social and cultural influences on energy consumption, based on a comparison of 16 Energy Living Labs (ELLs) across eight European countries. In order to achieve this goal, methodological developments include a consideration for the design, implementation and analysis of the ELLs, to understand “energy cultures” and social influences on the individual (household) and collective (community) level. The design of ELLs is based on the review, classification and analysis of household and community energy initiatives from 30 European countries. When it comes to comparing qualitative and quantitative data around the implementation of 16 ELLs, a specific methodology is needed to address the question of scale (household and community) and context (eight different countries). The aim of this paper is to question and discuss the challenges, limits and hazards of this type of comparison. Based on a literature review of comparative methods, we will propose and discuss our methodology and underline the associated challenges (e.g., different scale, cultures and sub-cultures; types of households; energy domains and sub-domains studied; as well as the amount and types of data that will be gathered, including visual data). We will also discuss the limits of this comparison, involving temporality issues for example. Finally, we will discuss the hazards of this comparison, such as the risks of result de-contextualization. This methodological discussion and analysis could interest colleagues with similar cross-national research project and challenges.