What Sort of « Innovation » Are We Talking about? a Review of Swiss Household Energy Initiatives

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Laure DOBIGNY, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Marlyne SAHAKIAN, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Efforts to improve the efficiency of household energy consumption are on the rise in Switzerland, with everyday people increasingly seen as playing a key role in the Swiss energy transition. These initiatives involve the promotion of new technologies and low-energy appliances, alternative ways of producing energy (e.g, local renewable energy production) or efforts to change energy-consuming practices (e.g., bike to work programs or sharing economy initiatives), among others. Different actors are leading these initiatives, ranging from institutions, governmental and no-governmental organisations, citizens, activists and researchers, with various modes of action: informative campaigns; monetary incentives; gaming, challenges and competition; Living Labs approaches and peer-to-peer cooperation are some of the many forms that such initiatives take on. Based on a review of more than forty energy initiatives in Switzerland, in the frame of the EU Horizon 2020 ENERGISE research project, this paper will question which forms of innovation they constitute and which aspects could be considered as “innovative” in relation to actors and their roles, modes of action, participative processes, forms of representation and changing practices. This contribution aims to uncover: 1) an overview of all energy initiatives in Switzerland in recent years that engage with household energy consumption, resulting in a typology of initiatives; 2) a focus on select initiatives (2-3 examples) that engage everyday people and change social practices related to energy consumption; and finally 3) implications for understanding in what way this initiatives around energy efficiency and sufficiency are innovative.