The Co-Construction of Energy Provision and Everyday Practice: Integrating Heat Pumps in Social Housing in England
Ellis P Judson
air source heat pump, diffusion, innovation, social housing, social practices, socio-technical systems, smart grid
Challenges of energy security, low carbon transitions, and electricity network constraints have led to a shift to new, efficient technologies for household energy services. Studies of such technological innovations usually focus on consumer information and changes in behaviour to realise their full potential. We suggest that regarding such technologies in existing energy provision systems opens up questions concerning how and why such interventions are delivered. We argue that we must understand the ways by which energy systems are co-constituted through the habits and expectations of households, their technologies and appliances, alongside arrangements associated with large-scale socio-technical infrastructures. Drawing on research with air-source-to-water heat pumps (ASWHP), installed as part of a large trans-disciplinary, utility-led research and demonstration project in the north of England, we investigate how energy services provision and everyday practice shapes new technologies uptake, and how such technologies mediate and reconfigure relations between users, providers and infrastructure networks. While the installation of ASWHP has led to role differentiation through which energy services are provided, the space for new forms of co-provision to emerge is limited by existing commitments to delivering energy services. Simultaneously, new forms of interdependency emerge between users, providers and intermediaries through sites of installation, instruction, repair and feedback. We find that although new technologies do lead to the rearrangement of practices, this is often disrupted by obduracy in the conventions and habits around domestic heating and hot water practices that have been established in relation to existing systems of provision. Rather being simply a matter of increasing levels of knowledge in order to ensure that such technologies are adopted effi ciently and effectively, our paper demonstrates how systemic arrangements of energy provision and everyday practice are co-implicated in socio-technical innovation by changing the nature of energy supply and use.