Bolstering a transition for a more sustainable energy system: A transformative approach to evaluations of energy efficiency in buildings

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T1 - Bolstering a transition for a more sustainable energy system

T2 - A transformative approach to evaluations of energy efficiency in buildings

AU - Neij, Lena

AU - Sandin, Sofie

AU - Benner, Mats

AU - Johansson, Maria

AU - Mickwitz, Per

PY - 2021

Y1 - 2021

N2 - A transition to a more sustainable energy system is called for, and to realise such a transition governments around the world have introduced various research programmes and policy instruments. In this paper, we elaborate on how the transition of the energy system could be reinforced through evaluation of research programmes and policy instruments, focusing on energy efficiency in buildings. We argue that a transition will require transformative evaluations that provide necessary learning from actions taken, and we propose an evaluation approach that complements, and goes beyond, the evaluation practice of today; an approach framed in line with the transition literature as well with evaluation research. We present a conceptual review of research literature, and apply the conceptual findings of this review to assess current evaluations of research programmes and policy instruments, focusing on energy efficiency in buildings in Sweden. The results show that the weakness of current evaluation practice is the fragmented approach to, and limited scope of, evaluations, which does not support transformative change. Despite this, there is potential for modification of the current evaluation approach to better capture transformative change by, for example, strengthening coordination between evaluations, providing better vision documents for the envisioned transition, and by providing better evaluations of innovative efforts by evaluating the outcome and learning in relation to upscaling processes. Moreover, the use of key evaluation concepts for supporting knowledge-based learning, such as the use of multiple methods, multiple criteria, and counterfactual analysis, can be further extended and improved to cater for transformative knowledge.

AB - A transition to a more sustainable energy system is called for, and to realise such a transition governments around the world have introduced various research programmes and policy instruments. In this paper, we elaborate on how the transition of the energy system could be reinforced through evaluation of research programmes and policy instruments, focusing on energy efficiency in buildings. We argue that a transition will require transformative evaluations that provide necessary learning from actions taken, and we propose an evaluation approach that complements, and goes beyond, the evaluation practice of today; an approach framed in line with the transition literature as well with evaluation research. We present a conceptual review of research literature, and apply the conceptual findings of this review to assess current evaluations of research programmes and policy instruments, focusing on energy efficiency in buildings in Sweden. The results show that the weakness of current evaluation practice is the fragmented approach to, and limited scope of, evaluations, which does not support transformative change. Despite this, there is potential for modification of the current evaluation approach to better capture transformative change by, for example, strengthening coordination between evaluations, providing better vision documents for the envisioned transition, and by providing better evaluations of innovative efforts by evaluating the outcome and learning in relation to upscaling processes. Moreover, the use of key evaluation concepts for supporting knowledge-based learning, such as the use of multiple methods, multiple criteria, and counterfactual analysis, can be further extended and improved to cater for transformative knowledge.

KW - Buildings

KW - Energy efficiency

KW - Evaluation

KW - Transition

U2 - 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101864

DO - 10.1016/j.erss.2020.101864

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85097755005

VL - 72

JO - Energy Research & Social Science

JF - Energy Research & Social Science

SN - 2214-6326

M1 - 101864

ER -