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Women: energy empowerment

Energy policy is obviously gender neutral. But should it be so?

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To date we know very little about the specific circumstances and factors that might impact women’s involvement in the transition to clean energy. Fortunately, this topic is slowly starting to attract attention in research and policy circles. Results of existing studies show that when striving for energy democracy, we must not overlook an important discrepancy between the roles women play as energy consumers, entrepreneurs, employees, and policy makers. Women think differently about energy Women represent around a half of the population of the EU. However, there are reasons to believe they consume proportionally much more energy. Women perform many more household chores than men, spending 4.5 per day on average doing so (vs 2.3 hours for men), according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This means that women manage most of home energy consumption, from heating to powering of household devices (e.g. washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, etc.). From the ecological point of view, it might be good news, since women seem to be more energy efficient than men. According to surveys reported by OECD “women tend to be more sustainable consumers and sensitive to ecological, environmental and health concerns. They are more likely to recycle, minimise wastage and buy organic food and eco-labelled products. They also place a higher value on energy-efficient transport and in general are more likely to use public transport than men (…). Women can therefore be key actors in shifting consumption towards more sustainable patterns. In this regard, public policies and new approaches to influence consumption decisions, such as behavioural insights should take into consideration a gender perspective.” Similar results were obtained from a global study Consumer Life conducted by GfK in 2019: significantly more European women than men value environmentally friendly cars (49% women vs 43% men). Eleanor Denny, an associate professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, confirms: “Under the EU project CONSEED, we conducted surveys on attitudes to energy efficiency when making purchasing decisions for appliances, properties and cars. Females were more likely than males to say that energy efficiency is very important in that decision. We don’t have data on the gender breakdown of actual purchasing decisions, but certainly the stated opinion was that women care more.” Denny is also collaborating with the EU project SocialRES, which studies socio-economic, cultural, political and gender factors that influence consumers in the energy system. It focuses on members of energy cooperatives, aggregators and crowdfunding platforms. Data are collected from surveys conducted in seven countries: Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Croatia, Romania. “We want to understand what is motivating people to engage in social energy initiatives and to become early adopters, in order to estimate if the projects could be scaled up and replicated elsewhere. We don’t have specific results yet, since the surveys are ongoing, but it’s going to be exciting,” she says. One of the aims of the project is to promote new ways of collaboration between energy cooperatives, aggregators and crowdfunding platforms. This is to boost decentralised participatory energy systems and democracy in tomorrow’s renewable energy market. In this context the collection of data about the role of gender in social innovation in the energy sector, currently unknown, is quite interesting. Read the full article on:


women, consumption, energy, sustainable pattern, gender prospective, barrier, social and cultural norms, sensitive policies

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