Steering demand? Exploring the intersection of policy, practice and lives in energy systems change in Ireland

Mary Greene*, Frances Fahy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances in sociological investigations of energy-systems-change highlight the influence of a wide range of policies, beyond those typically considered relevant to energy, on energy demand. To this, a new field of (‘non-) energy policy’ scholarship is exploring the ways in which policies across multiple societal sectors ‘steer’ demand. However, much of this work has been conducted at the scale of institutions and systems, with comparatively little work exploring the intersection of policy and everyday life. As a result, little is known about the ways in which (non-)energy policies shape demand in the context of situated, domestic energy practices. This paper seeks to advance (non-)energy policy scholarship by connecting recent developments in systems-based perspectives with situated practice-theoretical investigations of everyday practices. Drawing on biographic-narrative analysis of Irish individuals’ energy practices and their evolution over time, it highlights the potential of experience-centred inquiry for generating novel empirical insights regarding the contexts and processes by which policies and practice intersect. An illustrative discussion of ‘traces of policy’ and their influence on individuals’ conduct reveal insights into the everyday contexts and socially differentiated ways in which policy ‘steers’ action. Analysis reveals that (non-)energy policies of various kinds have worked to steer action by setting agendas, shaping public discourse and delimiting action. Individuals are posited as active agents mediating the intersection of policy and practice in everyday life. The paper concludes by outlining the parameters of a new research agenda for experience-centred explorations of the intersections of policy, practice and lives in energy-systems-change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101331
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Consumption
  • Everyday life
  • Invisible energy policy
  • Non-energy policy
  • Social practices


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