Energy Cultures: An Approach to Explore Workplace Energy Use at Multiple Scales

Brown, Llinos (2017) Energy Cultures: An Approach to Explore Workplace Energy Use at Multiple Scales. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Industry is attempting to meet its greenhouse gas emission targets by implementing energy efficiency measures. Technological solutions are often employed through the provision of onsite energy generation and improvements in heating and ventilation systems, despite Janda’s (2000) observation that ‘people use energy not buildings’, with the role of employees often overlooked. Researchers have also tended to ignore the important role of employees when examining energy use in the workplace (Andrews and Johnson, 2016). The unique aspect of the thesis is its attempt to address this gap in research by developing a multi-scalar workplace energy culture framework to inform research on energy use in an industrial workplace. In developing the workplace energy culture framework, the thesis argues that current approaches to examining energy use offer little opportunity for application in the workplace.

The workplace energy culture framework provides a lens to examine and gain an understanding of the individual and organisational determinants of energy use. In the thesis, it has been operationalised through a mixed-methods case study approach consisting of surveys, interviews, focus groups and observations. Taken together, these provide both theoretical and methodological insights that could be deployed in other settings.

BAE Systems is the collaborative partner of this EPSRC CASE award research, and the workplace energy culture framework was initially applied to one of its UK manufacturing facilities before being deployed to inform research on two US sites. An examination of the energy culture at the UK site provides a rich empirical insight into employees’ attitudes towards energy use on the site. It also highlights the various organisational determinants of energy use, such as the physical environment, wider organisational culture, sub-cultures and methods of communication. This thesis details how interventions seeking to improve energy efficiency – such as ISO 50001 – can target determinants of the framework, which can lead to improvements in energy efficiency and change the site energy culture. The study of various sites also provides insights into how energy cultures change with geography.

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