ArticlePDF Available

A cross-cultural analysis of household energy use behaviour in Japan and Norway



In this paper we compare and contrast the results of ethnographic investigations of energy use behaviour in Fukuoka, Japan and Oslo, Norway. These studies show significant differences in end use patterns for space heating, lighting and hot water use. We discuss how these patterns are related to cultural and economic factors. Our findings show that while energy intensive space heating and lighting habits have become an integral part of the presentation of the Norwegian home, Japanese space heat and light habits are more disciplined and less culturally significant. In Japan, the bathing routine is extremely important to the Japanese lifestyle and at the same time very energy intensive. Other energy intensive patterns are identified which do not have the same cultural significance, such as lax temperature setback in Norway and dish washing practices in Japan. The policy implications of these findings are discussed.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... Source : Crampes et al. (2009) Interestingly, predating academic research efforts from non-economic social science disciplines 106 tend to invite to less affirmative and much more humble statements on these matters. In their now seminal ethnographic study comparing energy consumption patterns and practices in Fukkoka (Japan) and Oslo (Norway), that is in two cities in developed countries with similar levels of material culture, but different cultural traditions, the anthropologists around Wilhite et al. for instance found significant differences in energy end-use practices and 106 I chose to highlight Wilhite's et al. now seminal ethnographic work on energy end-use practices in Japan and Norway because their concept of "cultural energy service" seemed to be most illustrative for my purpose (Wilhite, Nakagami, & Handa, 1996). Yet, several other works such as Akrich's case studies on the electrification of Burkina Faso, in which she revealed that the size of the electricity distribution network of the country would have been shaped quite differently depending on which unit of the distribution company took the lead in electricity system design (technical with a geographical and legalistic approach versus economic with a market-led approach) and her case study relating how French Polynesian users bypassed control circuits of their electricity provider, could have been equally illuminating in this context (Akrich, 1992). ...
... Source : Wilhite et al. (1996) More recent anthropological research 110 suggests that such cultural differences do not only matter between different continents, but also within Europe. In an ethnographic study looking into peoples' rationales to select renewable energy sources and to try to reduce electricity consumption at home Winther and Bouly de Lesdain compare the cases of France and Norway (Winther & Bouly de Lesdain, 2013). ...
... Illustration of the concept of the "cultural energy service", 1996Source :Wilhite et al. (1996) Summary of the most significant contrasts in energy-use practices in Norway vs. ...
Electricity powers modern life. In the past decades of power sector de- and re-regulation, numerous European norms have fundamentally re-shaped the boundaries of what electric consumption means. Today, electricity consumers – and increasingly pro-sumers – are even cast as one of the, if not the, central brick to bring the current energy transition(s) to success. Still, we know relatively little about the malleability of domestic electricity uses on the ground. By studying both qualitative and quantitative accounts of domestic electricity consumption in the three largest European nations as well as at the EU (and prior to this the EEC and EC) level of governance, and by giving a say to consumer testing bodies or, in other words, to the usually overlooked organised representatives of the middling sort, the present research paints a pretty complex and dynamic picture of how electric uses have been shaped on the ground, debunking conventional linear accounts of increasingly converging uses within the EU. It builds on a combination of fresh historical sources, criss-crossing records of international governmental and non-governmental organisations with a systematic comparative excavation of the monthly magazines of the three leading independent consumer testing bodies of the nations that have formed the centre span of my study. This approach further contributes to close some of the remaining research gaps in different areas of current historiography (history of European integration, history of consumption, social history of electrification), while equally contributing to the increasingly multidisciplinary “STS-SCOT” scholarship.
... Le comportement n'est donc pas une variable autonome, mais bien un élément, parmi d'autres, d'un système sociotechnique. » Les travaux de Wilhite et al. (1996) mettent en avant l'importance du sensible et du symbolique dans le rapport au logement et à l'énergie. Il n'est pas simplement question d'économie ou de techniques, mais d'habitudes, de ressentis qui conditionnent d'autant plus les pratiques de consommation. ...
... Les pratiques de consommation d'énergie ne sont plus pensées uniquement comme des actions rationnelles, mais bien mises en perspective selon l'environnement construit (Stern 2014;Wilhite et al. 1996), le cadre socio-technique dans lequel les individus évoluent (Shove 2003). Cette dernière souligne notamment la limitation des possibilités de changement en raison de la persistance de l'environnement matériel : « Les bâtiments que nous habitons aujourd'hui contiennent d'importants scénarios pour l'avenir, car ils contribuent, qu'on le veuille ou non, à construire ce qui deviendra les traditions et les conventions de demain. ...
À ce jour, en France, une personne sur cinq est confrontée au phénomène de précarité énergétique dans son logement. Cette dernière est associée à une précarité plus vaste qu’est la précarité économique et sociale. L’éducation aux « bons comportements » est-elle une réponse adaptée à ce phénomène ? En quoi la sobriété énergétique peut-elle devenir une injonction à un mode de vie ? La recherche se focalise sur le parcours du message normatif portant un idéal de mode vie sobre. L’intérêt est ainsi de questionner tant l’élaboration que la traduction en pratiques ou la diffusion de ces messages. De ce fait, c’est bien la relation experts/habitants qui est questionnée et la réception des politiques d’action publique. L’intérêt de ce travail de recherche est ainsi de questionner la réception de ces politiques auprès de publics cibles. L’objectif est de saisir l’intériorisation des messages normatifs par les ménages et leur transcription en pratiques et représentations. Autrement dit, il s’agit de questionner l’impact de ces messages d’incitation au changement de comportement à destination des ménages. L'étude qualitative prend place sur deux terrains d’étude en France, à savoir un quartier de La Courneuve (93) et la ville de Nantes (44).
... In thermal comfort studies, adopting a qualitative method plays an important role in the detection and realization of hidden issues affecting occupants' comfort and satisfaction (Healey & Webster-Mannison, 2012). Therefore, this method can discover the role of factors rooted in human culture and context (Wilhite, Nakagami, Masuda, Yamaga, & Haneda, 1996). The interviews mainly aims to investigate ways of using controllers and, more broadly, occupants' behavior when they feel hot or cold, as well as to discover problems that occupants have with controllers (Karjalainen & Koistinen, 2007). ...
... • Prepare a graphical method to express user perception of thermal conditions. (Wilhite et al., 1996) Interview  Investigate cultural distinctions.  Japanese families tend to heat just one room while Norwegians prefer to heat all. ...
Full-text available
Achievement of thermal comfort in the built environment is one of the human life needs. Many studies have already explored the issues around human comfort in relation to the surrounding thermal environment. However, most of these studies used quantitative methods that fall into the positivist paradigm. Despite the conducive results obtained, many aspects of the thermal comfort are neglected as the nature of comfort is directly associated with the human dimension. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt a different approach such as qualitative and mixed methods to better understand the underlying mechanisms of thermal comfort concept and its achievement. These methods could reveal other aspects of human comfort that have not been considered. However, the application of these methods requires fundamental knowledge of ontology and epistemology. Therefore, this paper reviewed and compared the dynamics of the application of the paradigms in thermal comfort studies and their methodologies. Analytical findings among the methods of studying thermal comfort showed that only quantitative studies were not sufficient to create the applied knowledge in this vein. As this is a human-based field, its methodology should be first selected and then designed in the right way respecting the context where a study is going to be carried out. In this process, qualitative studies can determine contributing factors, then quantitative studies can find the relationships between these factors.
... For energy models to become more sophisticated, there is a need to move beyond controlled activity profiles and predefined scenarios towards prediction tools that account for the complexities of everyday life. One way in which human behaviour has been accounted for in simulation studies is through the notion of 'lifestyle constraints', considering individuals' energy consumption behaviour as determined by a range of contextual factors, such as building types, appliance characteristics, lifestyle choices (Kashif et al., 2013;Haldi and Robinson, 2011) (relating to work, school and leisure), and the social and cultural values that are placed on activities (Wall and Crosbie, 2009;Porteous et al., 2012;Wilhite et al., 1996). A consideration of lifestyle constraints already has important implications for understanding the domestic context, given that it shows the complexity and number of variables that might intersect to determine how energy is consumed. ...
... Given the challenges of a cross-country comparison (Wilhite et al. 1996) and the different constituent parts of aggregated data, direct comparison of mobility modes and contexts is difficult. However, combining modal share data with analysis on mobility-policy trends allowed us to construct a picture of pre-existing mobility cultures in each of the three cities. ...
Full-text available
Issues of culture have to date been underexplored in practice-theoretical approaches to consumption. As a disruptive force affecting citizen mobility all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique empirical context to explore how culture and practice intersect, specifically concerning how unsettling events affect practices across different cultural and governing settings. Applying a combined mobility-culture and practice-theoretical framework, we conceptualize mobility cultures as setting-specific arrangements of practices that shape and reflect distinct, temporally unfolding, socio-material contexts. Comparing three cities with different mobility cultures in Norway, Ireland, and the United States, we combine 63 qualitative interviews with a contextual analysis of mobility settings to explore how daily urban mobilities have been transformed. We find that existing variation in mobility cultures, including bundles of place-specific mobility-related norms and infrastructures, mediate the impact of disruption, shaping how changes in modes, meanings, and performances of mobilities transpire. Notably, the analysis reveals how underlying cultures of mobility shape how practice trajectories respond and are reconfigured in a pandemic health-risk society. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the findings for understanding how culture and practice intersect and calls for further comparative culture-focused analysis in social science research on consumption. We consider how cross-cultural analysis can inform science and policy efforts focused on transitions toward low-carbon mobilities.
... Moreover, such constructs may be context-and culture-sensitive, which can limit the generalizability of results between studies. Although cross-cultural research has been conducted in the domains of energy-relevant attitudes and actions [18][19][20], the scope of analysis only covered the societal or national levels [21], thereby neglecting differences in the attitudes and behaviors of individuals. The second main limitation in the reviewed studies pertains to the data analysis methods used, mainly descriptive statistics and traditional statistical models (e.g., linear regression). ...
*** 50 days free download: *** Research on the drivers of energy-related behaviors in buildings has gained significant interest in recent years. However, existing studies are often limited to a restricted scope of analysis (e.g., single-domain and single-cultural contexts) and rely on simplistic data analysis tools that may fail to capture complex relationships of the studied drivers of behavior. Based on a survey of university students in Abu Dhabi (UAE, n = 519) and Aachen (GER, n = 153), this study investigates the impact of demographic characteristics, personality traits, energy-related beliefs, and social perceptions on the energy conservation motivation and attempts to save energy. Two distinct modeling approaches are applied and compared: (i) traditional linear regression (often used by social scientists), and (ii) machine learning based random forest regression (often used by data scientists). When using the training and testing set from the same location, the traditional linear regression showed slightly higher predictive power and significantly higher explanatory power. In contrast, the random forest regression was more successful in predicting the participants’ attitude towards energy saving by generalizing the behavior from different locations. In either case, the most influential drivers of occupant behavior were social influence and energy conservation beliefs and ability. The Abu Dhabi and Aachen samples shared the same drivers (i.e., triggers) of behavior despite disclosing different motivation levels and attempts to conserve energy. The findings shed meaningful insights on the multi-domain nature of occupant behavior across different cultures and the premise of different data analysis approaches to capture complex relationships.
... Weber and Perrels [24] investigated socio-economic and household characteristics by developing a model of lifestyle effects on energy demand. Wilhite et al. [25] investigated energy studies related to culture by comparing household electricity consumption in two countries, Japan and Norway, with similar levels and patterns of material culture and economic development. The results showed certain significant differences in end-use patterns for space heating, lighting, and hot water use that were linked to differences in the countries' cultures. ...
The implementation of the movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of the 2019 novel corona virus disease (COVID-19) have influenced household energy consumption patterns around the world. This study aims to investigate household energy consumption of urban residential buildings in major cities of Indonesia during COVID-19 pandemic. Three representative major cities of Indonesia were selected to investigate detailed information about household appliances and gas consumption through face-to-face interviews in 2021 (n=311). The factors affecting household energy consumption were investigated by multiple regression analysis. The results showed that, overall, the average annual energy consumption of all samples during pandemic was approximately 23.5 GJ, 3.0 GJ larger than before pandemic. The difference was primarily attributed to the use of air conditioning and cooking. The statistical analysis clearly indicated that the increase in household income (low-to high-cost houses), which would increase household size and number of appliances including air conditioning, thus increased total household energy consumption. We recommended the following potential energy-saving strategies for urban houses in Indonesia: (a) control the number of family members, (b) use more energy efficiency standards for electrical appliances and (c) encourage energy-saving lifestyles, particularly to younger adults by adopting passive cooling techniques (window opening) whereever possible.
... While previous studies of comfort and cleanliness have focused on, for example, cultural differences (Godin et al., 2020;Kuijer and de Jong, 2012;Wilhite et al., 1996), shared conventions (Hitchings and Day, 2013;Jack, 2018), know-how (Royston, 2014), or infrastructures, technical standards, metering and professional practices in shaping expectations (Gram-Hanssen et al., 2017;Shove and Walker, 2010;Strengers, 2011), this study adds further knowledge about how the escalating norms of comfort and cleanliness could be questioned and changed. In our study, 37 Finnish households challenged themselves to reduce their indoor temperatures and laundry wash cycles, thus reconfiguring practices related to thermal comfort and cleanliness. ...
This article approaches reconfiguring everyday practices from the viewpoint of challenging the social norms and cultural conventions that drive unsustainable consumption patterns. The article discusses results from a living lab intervention, where 37 Finnish households challenged themselves to reduce indoor temperature and the laundry wash cycles in autumn 2018. We discuss what was considered as ‘clean’ and ‘comfortable’ by the participants, and what kinds of deliberation, experimentation and reflection occurred during the attempts to challenge these notions underlying daily performances of heating and washing laundry. The results show the highly social and cultural nature of private consumption patterns and the underlying expectations of ‘normality’, and thus problematise the individualised or technology-driven approaches of many mainstream attempts to guide households towards more sustainable consumption. Living lab approach can provide fruitful lessons on household routines, as well as on acceptable ways to intervene in ‘normal’ and culturally endorsed forms of consumption.
Energy is at the core of development and everyday life, and household energy consumption has well deservingly become a core topic of consumption research. This chapter focuses mainly on electricity, as Vietnam’s electricity consumption has increased at astounding pace since Đổi Mới, due in part to all the processes outlined in preceding chapters. The chapter starts by introducing the political economy of energy in Vietnam, including a look towards the recent ambitious plans for expanding wind and solar power capacity. The chapter then focuses on how electricity consumption increases through everyday practices and the services electricity provides in daily life, focusing on ‘stuff’, air-conditioners and electric vehicles.KeywordsEnergy consumptionElectricityAir-conditionersElectric vehicles
In recent years, the research on the energy consumption of colleges and universities has mainly focused on the campus as a whole or only a certain kind of building, and most of the research on its influencing factors also focuses on one or several factors. Research has found that the different energy consumption behaviors of individuals in different buildings have a significant impact on overall energy consumption. This article summarizes the research progress of energy consumption behavior and building energy consumption, and uses citespace to conduct a visualization study of keywords and author, comprehensively discusses the influencing factors of building energy consumption, and proposes a load forecasting model to provide a reference for the study of building energy efficiency. In addition, scene analysis of northern universities is carried out from different aspects such as time, space, and discipline.
Full-text available
In this paper, we present the results of a three-year investigation of the relationship between billing information and household energy consumption in Oslo, Norway. The hypothesis tested in the study is that a more informative energy bill will result in more efficient energy use in the home. The consumption data from the third and final year of the experiment confirm the hypothesis in a resounding way: more informative bills resulted in energy savings of about 10%. Questionnaire and interview data show that those who received experimental bills paid more attention to the bills, were more likely to discuss bills with other members of the household, and were positive to continuing with the experimental billing system. There are greater costs associated with the more frequent and informative bill which was tested, but we have estimated that costs are minimal in relation to savings. Each kWh of saved energy has a cost of only about 0.07 Nkr ($0.01). Since the techniques which were tested do not require extensive training or major technical innovations, they can be easily put into practice. These results on energy savings and consumer response to better billing feedback should be of interest to the many utilities around the world which have billing systems similar to the one in Oslo.
This paper discusses the effects of the ongoing debate concerning the greenhouse effect in Sweden on the general public in the town of Umeå. Issues that are seen to be of importance include: 1. the people's inability to disassociate the greenhouse effect from the ozone hole debate, 2. the equity issues connected to the region, 3. people's attitudes toward the greenhouse effect, and 4. the solutions considered to be the best for solving the problem of global climate change. These issues are based on twenty four person to person in-depth interviews which took place during July and August of 1990.
The National Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1978 requires the Federal Trade Commission to mandate labels for appliances indicating their energy consumption. The purposes of this study are to measure the level of awareness of appliance energy labels by recent purchasers of refrigerators and washers, and to measure changes in the degree to which energy considerations entered into the purchase decisions of national samples of consumers before and after introduction of the FTC program.
Room air-conditioner operation was studied in order to understand how energy consumption and peak power demand are determined by user needs, concepts, and behavior. In a multi-family building in New Jersey, thirteen room air conditioners were instrumented in eight apartments, and the residents were interviewed about their cooling needs, decisions about when to turn on their air-conditioning, and their conceptions and operationsof the units. Residents were not billed separately for electricity. They nevertheless limited their use of air-conditioning on the basis of many non-economic factors, including: daily schedule, folk theories about how air conditioners function and the body's heat tolerance, personal strategies for dealing with all machines, and beliefs and preferences concerning health, thermal comport, and alternative cooling strategies.Across physically similar apartments, seasonal air-conditioner energy consumption varied by two to three orders of magnitude while interior temperature varied by only 2.4 °C to 3.7 °C (4.3–6.7 °F). The least-frequent users were effectively achieving comport at greatly reduced energy consumption, but they were not reducing peak demand since they ran their units only on peak hours of the hottest days of the summer. Three-quarters of the residents did not use their thermostats, controlling cooling instead by switching their units on and off manually. Only one resident consistently let his air conditioner operate thermostatically, and many were not aware that their units had thermostats. The prevailing non-thermostatic mode was initially thought to indicate a need for user education. Further investigation suggests that the cause is in fact a startling mismatch of existing room air-conditioner controls to user needs, with a corresponding opportunity for fundamental redesign of controls.
Ethnographic interviews were conducted with a small but diverse sample of US residents in order to understand how ordinary citizens conceptualize global climate change and make value judgments about it. Most informants had heard of the greenhouse effect. However, they conceptualized global climate change very differently from scientists because they interpreted it in terms of four pre-existing categories: stratospheric ozone depletion; plant photosynthesis; tropospheric pollution; and personally experienced temperature variation. The strongest environmental value to emerge was a desire to preserve the environment for one's descendants — it was spontaneously mentioned by twelve of the first fourteen informants. Species extinction and range shifts are among the most significant potential effects of global climate change, yet these effects were virtually unknown. Few informants recognized the connection between energy consumption and global warming, and they typically regarded their personal fuel consumption as inelastic.
A new method to estimate the energy efficiency of households is presented. Households are treated as productive units organized to provide services for the occupants. The approach to measuring efficiency compares a group of productive units along several dimensions of input resources and service outputs. The comparison identifies a subset of units that are considered efficient because they require the fewest resources per unit of service provided. The efficient units form a production possibility frontier of best practice in service provision. All other units are compared to this best practice frontier and their index of efficiency is based on their distance from that frontier. Data from the 1979 Household Screener Survey are used to construct a household typology. Two different energy efficiency models are explored. One model uses the annual consumption of electric and non-electric fuels as the input resources. The other uses the annual expenditures for the two fuel types. Both models use the number of rooms and the number of people in the dwelling as proxies for the service outputs. A regression analysis of the two sets of efficiency scores indicates that the more efficient units used electric heat, had higher ratios of non-electric to electric fuel inputs, and were owner-occupied.
The Beau O' Myth Verso
  • N Wolf
Wolf, N (1991) The Beau O' Myth Verso, London, UK
The 03,santhemum and the Sword
  • Benedict
Benedict. R (1946) The 03,santhemum and the Sword." Patterns o! Japanese Culture Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA
Social and behavioural aspects of energy use" Annual Review ql'Energv and Environment I g
  • L Lutzenhiser
Lutzenhiser, L (1993) 'Social and behavioural aspects of energy use" Annual Review ql'Energv and Environment I g 247-289