Bridging the divide between resource management and everyday life: smart metering, comfort and cleanliness

Strengers, Y 2009, Bridging the divide between resource management and everyday life: smart metering, comfort and cleanliness, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Bridging the divide between resource management and everyday life: smart metering, comfort and cleanliness
Author(s) Strengers, Y
Year 2009
Abstract Smart metering residential demand management programs, such as consumption feedback, variable pricing regimes and the remote control of appliances, are being used to respond to the resource management problems of peak electricity demand, climate change and water shortages. Like other demand management programs, these strategies fail to account for (and respond to) the reasons why people consume resources in their homes, namely to carry out everyday practices such as bathing, laundering, heating and cooling. In particular, comfort and cleanliness practices together constitute most of Australia's potable water consumption in urban centres, and represent most of household energy consumption. In addition, new household cooling practices involving air-conditioning appliances are the major contributor to the nation's rising peak electricity demand, which overloads the electricity syst em on hot days, costing consumers millions of dollars each year. The oversight of comfort and cleanliness practices in smart metering demand management programs is concerning because these practices are continuing to shift and change, often in more resource-consuming directions, potentially negating the resource savings achieved through demand management programs.

This thesis aims to bridge the problematic divide between the policies and strategies of demand managers, and the day-to-day practices which constitute everyday life. Using the empirical 'hook' of smart metering demand management programs and the everyday practices of comfort and cleanliness, this thesis develops a practice-based conceptual framework to study, understand and analyse these practices and the ways in which smart metering demand management programs reconfigure or further entrench them.

A series of qualitative methods were employed in studying 65 households across four research groups, focusing specifically on the household practices of heating, cooling, bathing, laundering, toilet flushing and house cleaning. In addition, 27 interviews were conducted with smart metering industry stakeholders involved or implicated in delivering demand management strategies. Together, these lines of inquiry are used to analyse householders' existing and changing comfort and cleanliness practices, the role of several smart metering demand management strategies in reconfiguring these practices, and potential avenues and opportunities for further practice change in less resource-intensive directions. In particular, this thesis highlights the inherent contradictions and problems in accounting for everyday practices within the dominant demand management paradigm, and offers an alternative paradigm termed the co-management of everyday practices. The thesis concludes by briefly identifying the ways in which smart metering could potentially constrain or catalyse a transition towards this new paradigm.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Smart metering
thermal comfort
demand management
water practices
energy practices
social practices
everyday life
consumption feedback
dynamic peak pricing
variable pricing regines
peak demand
in-home displays
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Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
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