Culture and low-carbon energy transitions


How does culture influence low-carbon energy transitions? How can insights about cultural influences guide energy planners and policymakers trying to stimulate transitions, particularly at a time of rapid technological change? This Review examines the influence of culture on a selection of low-carbon technologies and behavioural practices that reflect different dimensions of sustainability. Based on a typology of low-carbon technology and behaviour, we explore the cultural dimensions of four specific cases: eco-driving, ridesharing, automated vehicles and whole-house retrofits. We conclude with recommendations for those seeking to analyse, understand, develop, demonstrate and deploy low-carbon innovations for sustainable energy transitions.

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Fig. 1: A technological and behavioural typology of low-carbon transitions.
Fig. 2: Levels of partial and full automation in vehicular mobility.
Fig. 3: Interconnections between home retrofits, EV adoption, ridesharing and AVs.
Fig. 4: A research agenda for culture and low-carbon energy transitions.


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We acknowledge support from UK Research and Innovation through the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, grant reference no. EP/R035288/1. We thank the members of the Energy and Social Science Network (EASSN), and the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN), for sharing studies to help build the evidence base for the Review. M. Jefferson and T. Fawcett also offered very helpful suggestions for improvement.

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B.K.S. and S.G. conceived of and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Benjamin K. Sovacool.

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Sovacool, B.K., Griffiths, S. Culture and low-carbon energy transitions. Nat Sustain 3, 685–693 (2020).

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