fredag 11 november 2016

Municipal climate and energy advisors: A way forward or a “Mission: Impossible”? (paper)

I recently wrote about two papers I submitted to the conference "Energy and Society" (paper #1paper #2) but I in fact also submitted a third paper to the conference. This paper is an outcome of a research project I have written about before (a long time ago) on the blog, "Improved energy counseling and energy habits by Quantified Self Assisted Advisory".

Here's the background: we find that the Swedish municipal energy and climate advisors are asked to do a lot ("save Sweden", decrease carbon emissions") but that they are not allowed/encouraged to talk about many aspects of our energy-demanding lifestyle like our indirect use of energy (through the choices we make as to the food to eat, our consumption habits, our everyday and vacation travel habits etc.). This puts individual (idealistic) advisors in a difficult position and also decreases the possibilities of the advisors having a big impact on all (energy-demanding and climate-problematic) aspects of our lives and our lifestyles.

It is not totally clear exactly who will write this paper beyond Björn Hedin and me (should it be accepted). Henrik has gotten new tasks at work and might be too busy but Susanna Heyman could possibly join us in writing this paper.

Municipal climate and energy advisors: A way forward or a “Mission: Impossible”? 

Authors: Björn Hedin, Daniel Pargman, Henrik Artman

Keywords: energy advice, energy advisors, indirect energy, municipalities

Abstract: To live sustainably is hard. Advice on relatively trivial actions such as changing light bulbs are readily available, but more complex and more climate related issues such as heating, transportation, food and consumption are trickier, and it is furthermore difficult to know which advice to trust. One way to deal with this complex problem is to consult and get advice from an expert. Many companies offer such services but they run the risk of being perceived as biased by commercial interests.
Sweden has chosen to finance “municipal energy and climate advisors” for providing impartial locally adapted energy and climate advice to individuals. A total of 14 million Euros is provided on a yearly basis to finance this service for a population of 10 million inhabitants. The goals and the activities of the energy advisors are regulated in annual appropriation directives from the Swedish government. However, the interpretation of these directives in several cases come in conflict with the overall goals, and especially the goal to reduce global climate emissions. The advisors are for example prohibited from giving advice about indirect energy use such as food and consumption in general, and the requirement that advisors have to provide impartial advice can lead to them instead giving general and unspecific advice. These are problems that commercial and/or “partial” energy advisors do not have. 

In this paper we examine and problematize such conflicts between goals and regulations by analysing steering documents, regulations, reports, web pages and interviews with energy advisors. Our conclusion is that the municipal energy and climate advisors harbour the potential to serve an important purpose, but that the regulations surrounding them make the possibilities for them to work effectively towards the overall goals a "mission: impossible".

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