Shifts in the smart research agenda? 100 priority questions to accelerate sustainable energy futures

Rosie Robison, Tomas Moe Skjølsvold, Tom Hargreaves, Sara Rënstrom, Maarten Wolsink, Emily Judson, Viera Pechancová, Melike Demirbağ-Kaplan, Hug March, Johanna Lehne, Chris Foulds, Zareen Bharucha, Liliia Bilious, Christian Büscher, Giuseppe Carrus, Sarah Darby, Sylvie Douzou, Mojca Drevenšek, Bohumil Frantál, Ângela Guimarães PereiraAndrew Karvonen, Cecilia Katzeff, Maria Kola-Bezka, Senja Laakso, Gudrun Lettmayer, Yael Parag, Fanni Sáfián, Mariusz Swora, Lise Tjørring, Ellen van der Werff, Bas van Vliet, Grégoire Wallenborn, Annemie Wyckmans

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Energy transitions are at the top of global agendas in response to the growing challenges of climate change and international conflict, with the EU positioning itself as playing a pivotal role in addressing climate risks and sustainability imperatives. European energy transition policies identify ‘smart consumption’ as a key element of these efforts, which have previously been explored from a predominantly technical perspective thus often failing to identify or address fundamental interlinkages with social systems and consequences. This paper aims to contribute to interdisciplinary energy research by analysing a forward looking ‘Horizon Scan’ research agenda for smart consumption, driven by the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). Reflecting on an extensive systematic Delphi Method exercise surveying over 70 SSH scholars from various institutional settings across Europe, we highlight what SSH scholars see as future directions for smart consumption research. Building from seven thematic areas (under which are grouped 100 SSH research questions), the study identifies three key ‘shifts’ this new smart research agenda represents, when compared to previous agendas: (1) From technological inevitability to political choice, highlighting the need for a wider political critique, with the potential to open up discussions of the instrumentalisation of smart research; (2) From narrow representation to diverse inclusion, moving beyond the shortcomings of current discourses for engaging marginalised communities; and (3) From individual consumers to interconnected citizens, reframing smart consumption to offer a broader model of social change and governance. Social Sciences and Humanities scholarship is essential to address these shifts in meaningful (rather than tokenistic) ways. This agenda and the shifts it embodies represent key tools to enable better interdisciplinary working between SSH and teams from the technical and natural sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137946
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date5 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2023


  • Energy justice
  • Energy transitions
  • Prosumer
  • Research funding
  • Smart consumption
  • Socio-technical systems

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