The next Energy and Society Network seminar will take place on Friday 23 March 2018, 3.30pm-5pm.
Where: Room 1.06, Old Surgeon’s Hall, High School Yards, see https://www.ed.ac.uk/maps/maps?building=old-surgeons-hall
Mandy de Wilde (currently visiting researcher in Sociology, UoE), Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University
Making a market for low-carbon retrofit services in the Netherlands: on the role of private, public and civic market devices
In the Netherlands, concerns about the energy efficiency of privately owned dwellings are rising. The uncertain, fragmented character of the low carbon-retrofit market hampers a transition towards sustainable housing as homeowners are reluctant to retrofit their homes. Connecting homeowners to supply-side actors of low-carbon-retrofit services in ways satisfactory to homeowners forms an important, challenging task. Service design for the benefit of a customer-centric perspective is deemed a solution by the Dutch Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth (2013) to which governments, public organisations and market actors have committed themselves. On the basis of a qualitative study of the service design offered by intermediary organizations this paper analyzes how these intermediaries attempt to choreograph low-carbon-retrofit experiences of homeowners through the design of a so-called ‘customer journey’. I operationalize these customer journey-designs as market devices that bring supply and demand for low carbon retrofit services together. I distinguish between three ideal-typical customer-journey designs in which, depending on the role envisioned for homeowners, a different socio-economic relation is foregrounded: a private design envisions homeowners as passive consumers who trust in the expertise offered by the intermediary; a civic design envisions homeowners as engaged consumer-citizens who trust their neighbours as reliable service representatives; and a public design envisions homeowners as critical consumers who trust in the retrofit technology and products offered. Currently in the Netherlands, this type of service design is rolled out in various localities, with intermediaries creating local markets for low-carbon service design. This is problematic because the choice for rolling out either a private, a civic or a public customer journey-design will result in a specific type of low-carbon-retrofit market in which homeowners are enabled to engage in fundamentally different ways.
I am a sociologist (PhD-2015), currently a postdoc at the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. I am interested in issues around low-carbon housing and retrofitting, sustainable consumption and citizenship, gender and everyday life. Currently, I work on a research project that investigates the family decision-making process for low-carbon housing focusing on the affective and gender dimensions of this process. Also, I am developing a research project on the under-researched setting of care as part of the energy transition within and outside the home.