Graduate Project


Kids in the Grid: The Role of Family Energy Lifestyles in Changing Residential Energy-Use Behaviors Public Deposited

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  • The increasing complexity and connectedness of energy networks has opened pathways for new forms of collaboration with energy consumers. Despite the emergence of the smart grid an array of policy options like demand-side management (DSM), many families continue to disregard daily household energy consumption, particularly during peak-use times of day. While many studies have explored residential energy behavior, few have focused on the role of lifestyle—interlinked, culturally-approved behaviors—and even fewer on the role of children in family energy behaviors. My study uses social-cognitive and social practice theory to analyze a series of focus groups, interviews and hands-on activities conducted with 89 elementary and middle-school children who were asked about their family energy lifestyles. I uncovered four key findings about these children’s energy lifestyles: a tendency toward habit and pattern, familial dependence, tech-saturation, and burgeoning independence. Based on these findings, I make three recommendations for interventions targeting behavior change: underscore social involvement, incorporate a dashboard approach, and emphasize education and co-provision. I also make the theoretical claim that attitude-behavior-choice approaches to understanding energy behavior seem at times highly inapplicable to these children’s energy lifestyles. Finally, I offer policy implications and goals for future research, commending and critiquing California’s broad supply-side match of consumer conservation mandates, and recommending forward-thinking changes to DSM that more holistically center consumer needs.
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