From structural factors to individual practices: reasoning on the main paths for action on energy efficiency
Observa - Ambiente, Sociedade e Opinião Pública Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa Lisboa, Portugal
Sociology ISCTE Lisbon, Portugal
The debate on social structure constraints over individual´s action vs. the ability of individuals to determine their actions is as old as social sciences. Recent theoretical efforts to bring together these broad approaches, while aiming to develop a more encompassing view of social problems, highlight the potentials of both perspectives for understanding the paths to energy efficiency in a broader context of sustainability.
With this theoretical debate as reference, this paper looks at the view of Portuguese citizens on the role and potentials of structure vs. agency in everyday practices and decision-making aiming at energy efficiency. The main question is whether they assign to themselves any responsibility for energy efficiency or do they just bear on public policies for failures and successes of, or at least for contextualizing, their energy saving performances? Have these different perspectives any influence on current performances and perception of people on energy efficiency issues?
According to several Eurobarometer studies, Portuguese citizens perceive their lack of information as the main handicap in dealing with energy efficiency issues. Moreover, their demand for proactive public policies is much lower then registered in most other European countries. Bearing upon a study survey and in-depth interviews with citizens involved in a broader research project where social perceptions and actual practices for energy saving were brought together, this paper questions what are the main drivers for a more proactive energy efficiency behavior by the citizens and their implications towards a more sustainable use of energy resources in everyday life.