"Evaluators and policy makers need to work together to grow the evidence base"
I have been working in the energy efficiency and climate change policy field for 10 years, both at the international level (within the International Energy Agency) and the national level (in the New Zealand government). We urgently need to progress the energy transition, and, as a social scientist, I believe that step-change solutions can be found by drawing on social science perspectives which enable us to understand the role of energy-users in the system, and the wider socio-technical context that energy systems operate within.
Unique social norms and values, practices and identities give rise to an infinite array of different “energy cultures”, and our energy culture has a profound effect on the way we use energy, the way we respond to energy policy and to messages about sustainability and climate change. Through adaptive listening and robust and inclusive evaluation we can start to decipher these cultural influences, to understand what works and what doesn’t and how to do the job better.
What’s more, energy policies are having multiple benefits/ impacts across societies and economies that are often missed from traditional, KwH-focused policy assessment. As a result, we are undervaluing the role that energy and climate projects have in bringing about wider changes in society and improving quality of living across the board.
Awareness of this missed opportunity is growing fast, and evaluators and policy makers need to work together to grow the evidence base and our methodologies for doing so in innovative ways. Increased collaboration and international knowledge sharing is critical to this, especially in smaller countries of the Asia Pacific region, like New Zealand, and networks like IEPPEC and EEAP are where the action happens.