Householders co-managing energy systems: space for collaboration?

R. Smale*, G. Spaargaren, B.J.M. van Vliet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The potential role of households as ‘co-managers’ of energy in smart grids is widely discussed in the social science literature. Much remains uncertain about the social relations and practices emerging around novel smart grid technologies and their contribution to sustainability. Drawing on 14 ‘show-and-tell’ home tours with householders in a smart grid trial, an analysis is presented of how home energy management (HEM) is performed in everyday life. The focus is on three technologies: monitoring technologies, smart heat pumps and home batteries. How and why householders do (not) engage with energy management during the pilot project is described. When householders participate in HEM practices, they gain energy management understandings and an awareness of smart grid objectives. Since HEM practices are shared between householders and actors from the energy provision system, they display particular ways of distributing responsibilities, power and agency over technologies, experts and householders. The time and space granted to these three smart grid technologies are shown to depend on the trust relationships between householders and the more or less absent providers of technologies and services. These insights emphasize the need to develop smart grid solutions reflexively with respect to the different spaces and practices in households in which they operate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-597
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2018


  • domestic energy
  • energy behaviours
  • energy management
  • smart grids
  • smart homes
  • techological change
  • trust

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