Exploring energy citizenship in relation to district heating

  • Palm, J. (Presenter)
  • Aimee Amborse (Presenter)

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


In 2018, the EU updated its energy policy framework to facilitate the transformation away from fossil fuels to renewables. The Clean Energy for all Europeans Package includes a vision of a new role for citizens, going from a passive energy consumer to an active energy citizen. The transition to a low-carbon future based on renewable energy sources is leading to a new role for citizens, from passive energy consumers to active energy citizens (Ines et al 2020). Research into fuel poverty has however shown that system active consumers disadvantage to the less confident and capable (Hirsch, 2019). Energy citizenship in relation to the electricity system has been widely studied. This is however not the case for energy citizenship in relation to the heating systems. We will present an ongoing study where the aim is to assess if acts of research participation promote a greater level of interest in and engagement with the heating system. In the project we walk and talk with ordinary citizens how they connect and interact with their heating system and how they perceive a transition of the system.
District heating suffers in many ways from a ‘double invisibility’ due to that it is not visualised in everyday life and because the system seldom demand any action from us on a day-to-day basis (Ambrose, 2020). The invisibility of the heating system poses a challenge when approaching citizens with the aim to discuss everyday interactions and future pathways. In the project ‘Walking With Energy’ we have combined different methods and e.g. walked along district heating pipelines and visiting heat plants. Due to Covid 19 we have needed to transform the walks to online events, which have giving us new tools to reach out and discuss heat and heating practices with people. The results from 4 walks and the citizen’s reflections on the heating systems will be presented.
A physical walk was conducted in Sheffield, where the participants had a tour of Sheffield’s energy from waste facility where the city’s refuse is burned to generate heat and electricity and distribute it to the citizens. One challenge with walking alongside a district heating system and through a heat generating plant is that you need to have the strength and mobility to participate. A lighter version of the walk was tried out in Sweden. The general public was invited to the Lund University department’s building, a beautiful ancient building from 1909, to have a presentation of Lund’s heating system and the building’s heat exchanger.
In an attempt to reach a wider audience a socio-economic challenged area in the city of Malmö, Sweden, was contacted. They actively work with immigrants and their integration into the society. The people attending this event were all part of a language café for immigrants that were located in the same building. The women attending had not fully understood the information about the event and were not willing to walk to a heat plant as planned. They were however willing to participate in a group interview to discuss the heating system and we then decided to change the walk and conduct a focus group interview.
Several virtual events have been conducted and they have a similar organisation. These start off with that everyone is invited to use the chat, the walking with energy project is introduced, then a special made movie to use for virtual walks is shown and after that we have a discussion where the audience is invited to ask questions.
The results from all walks indicate that to reach out ot different groups different “walks” is needed. Young people have been attracted by the virtual walks, while other groups such as the immigrants, needed a more outreach method. All methods did however result in a social learning practise, where the discussions encourage personal experience, storytelling, and the sharing of best/worst practices and lessons learned.
Period2021 Jun 9
Event titleeceee 2021 Summer Study on energy efficiency: A New Reality
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Free keywords

  • energy citizenship
  • district heating
  • energy democracy
  • action research
  • participatory research