3S WP 2012-01 Hargreaves – Governing Energy Use at Home: Smart Meters, Governmentality and Resistance

This paper examines attempts to reduce household energy consumption through the introduction of real time display monitors (RTDs) that enable householders to ‘see’ their energy use (and its associated carbon emissions) and thus take steps to reduce it. Drawing on repeat semi-structured interviews, conducted 12-months apart, with 10 householders participating in a ‘Visible Energy Trial’ in the East of England, the paper explores how RTDs attempt to rationalise and govern household routines in new ways, and sheds light on the ways in which they are integrated into, or rejected by, existing household relations and practices. Specifically, the paper shows how carbon dioxide appears to be a relatively weak metric or rationality of government among householders, seemingly unable to challenge entrenched household practices; how the monitors introduce new forms of surveillance and discipline to householder actions that, in turn, lead to new forms of cooperation, conflict and negotiation in householder relations; and also how the monitors are resisted by householders, often along gendered or generational lines, through appeals to longer-standing household ethics and aesthetics, and through a partial rejection of the territorialisation of climate change at the household level.

Hargreaves, T. (2012) Governing Energy Use at Home: Smart Meters, Governmentality and Resistance. 3S Working Paper 2012-01. Norwich: Science, Society and Sustainability Research Group

3S WP 2012-01 Hargreaves