Energy Council of Canada Energy Policy Fellow Stephanie Whitney
I had the pleasure of attending the tenth annual Behaviour Energy and Climate Change (BECC) Conference, in Sacramento, California, from Oct 15-18, 2017. This premier conference, convened by American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI), and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University, attracted over 700 participants including policy makers, academics, consultants, and key decision-makers from the energy sector, globally.
The opening plenary keynote was given by Dr. Naomi Oreskes, acclaimed author and Professor at Harvard University. Dr. Oreskes discussed six narratives of climate change discourse and the key gaps or missing components in these narratives that prevent scientists from reaching mainstream audiences and influencing policy makers. In essence, Dr. Oreskes argued that inadequate recognition of external societal drivers such as (but not limited to) politics, ideology, culture, and power result in scientists' failure to communicate the relevance and significance of climate change research to people's everyday lives. As such, the promotion of technological innovation and behavioural science as solutions to energy consumption and other resource issues have been adopted at much slower rates than what is required to transition to a sustainable energy future. One of Dr. Oreskes' key recommendations was for energy researchers and practitioners to ground our work in the intrinsic motivations of the segments of the population that we are trying to reach (as an example, not everyone thinks of benefits and costs of actions from the economic perspective).
As a presenter in the 'Commercial Programs' lightning session, I was honoured to present my WISE, ECC, and SSHRC-funded research in a presentation titled 'It's Complicated! How to (and how NOT to) motivate sustainable energy management in commercial buildings'. This presentation outlined my focus on the energy performance gap, which is a pervasive issue, even within green-certified buildings. I spoke about my investigation of buildings using a systems lens, and my qualitative study of building managers, operators, and tenants to identify and understand the motivations for these stakeholders to engage in sustainable energy management practices. Other presenters during this themed session spoke about the role of regulatory and voluntary interventions in achieving energy consumption reductions in commercial buildings, as well as emerging perspectives on how to think about efficiency and positive workplace outcomes (thermal comfort, well-being, etc.).
Overall, attending the 2017 BECC Conference was great experience! I attended some interesting sessions on a range of topics: best practices in industrial strategic energy management (SEM), organizational decision-making, designing effective programs for commercial buildings, and the power of storytelling in climate communication. As a result of my presentation and the conference's networking opportunities, I had many insightful conversations with likeminded researchers and practitioners from North America and Europe, and look forward to utilizing the feedback and knowledge gained into future iterations of my research.