This conceptual paper deals ultimately with the intricate relationships existing between quantity and quality in the field of energy conservation policies. It discusses how current policy approaches to energy conservation have energy efficiency and individuals’ behavioral change as principle target. It then argues that their limited impacts derive largely from how they are principally informed by quantitative estimates of reductions in energy inputs and neglect how qualitative changes generated in the energy outputs can either offset these reductions (e.g. more energy efficient motors can enable the production of larger cars consuming more energy) or cause higher savings (e.g. smaller cars can consume less energy even with less efficient motors). The paper also explains these limited impacts in terms of overly simplistic cause-effect relationships assumed to exist between given exogenous factors (e.g. provision of information, price signals, etc.) and individuals’ behaviors. It then shows how radically alternative policies for energy conservation can target qualitative changes and re-organisations in energy outputs. In doing so, it takes social practice theories as theoretical background. Finally, it discusses the potentially very high impacts and the alternative character of policies informed by these theories and shows how and where they indicate to intervene.
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