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Energy, the environment and the rational, strategic & political dimensions of energy planning

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Harries, DN (1996) Energy, the environment and the rational, strategic & political dimensions of energy planning. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Concern over the costs of energy production and use has led to persistent demands for greater policy emphasis on energy conservation. Many researchers have supported these calls and a considerable amount of technical and social research has been undertaken with the intention of advancing this option. Despite this research effort, reliance on energy conservation has remained low and intermittent in many countries and regions. This study explores the reasons for this limited impact of technical and social energy conservation research on energy policy and planning.
Terms and concepts central to the energy debate are defined and discussed. The rejection of demands to reduce energy use is explained in terms of policy constraints and the contradictions in policy goals contained in the arguments upon which these demands are based. The demand for interventionary strategies aimed at increasing the efficiency of energy use are explained separately in terms of political resistance to demand reduction policies and the nature of energy policy making and planning.
The empirical heart of the study is made up of three case studies which are used to illustrate the arguments developed in the theoretical discussion. The history and ongoing debate over electricity planning in Tasmania is first examined. The underlying reasons behind the rapid expansion of electricity supply, and the rejection of energy conservation as a means of reducing the pace of the state's electricity supply construction programme are analysed. The recent history of electricity planning in the state is then used to explain continued low reliance on energy conservation in the aftermath of electricity planning reform. The effectiveness of two household sector energy conservation strategies are then assessed. An experiment involving the monitoring of the impacts of an information campaign on household energy use, and laboratory testing of the performance and energy consumption of refrigerators, are described. The results of
these experiments are discussed in terms of the support they lend to the theoretical arguments and their policy relevance.
It is argued that those who demand energy conservation as a social imperative are frustrated and perplexed due to their failure to understand the complexities of energy issues and what these demands run up against, on the one hand, and to a clash between what is socially and instrumentally rational, on the other. The frustration and perplexity of scientific researchers is explained in terms of differences in disciplinary modes of thinking, to the dominance of scientists in debate over energy policy and energy conservation, and to a schism within the literature on energy policy whereby political explanations tend to be omitted from the mainstream debate.
Using a distinction between high, moderate and low energy conservation strategies, and the idea of threshold effects between these different levels of energy conservation, the reasons for the rejection of energy conservation as a policy option are summarised.
The limited impact of technical and social energy conservation research is then explained in terms of these arguments. The overall conclusion reached is that although it is theoretically possible to use scientific research to persuade energy planners to adopt rational demand reduction strategies, in practice, the substantial resources required render it very difficult to do so. Serious planning commitment to energy conservation therefore requires a priori change at the political level, the resources necessary for useful scientific research being made available only after policy makers decide to increase emphasis on energy conservation. Contemporary energy policy reform, however, has tended to be forced by economically rational imperatives rather than environmental concerns.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
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Explores the reasons for the limited impact of technical and social energy conservation research on energy policy and planning. It uses three case studies to illustrate the arguments developed in the theoretical discussion. Pamphlets in pocket at back of vol. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1997. Includes bibliographical references. Explores the reasons for the limited impact of technical and social energy conservation research on energy policy and planning. It uses three case studies to illustrate the arguments developed in the theoretical discussion

Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2014 00:02
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2017 02:41
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