Skip to content Skip to navigation

Energy at your service: highlighting energy usage systems in the context of energy efficiency analysis

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Energy Effciency, Volume 4, Number 3, p.355-369 (2011)



Increasing energy efficiency has for a long time been identified as an important means of mitigating climate change. However, the full potential for technical energy efficiency has seldom been fully exploited. The traditional approach in energy systems analysis and policy is still largely supply-orientated, i.e. focusing on the management of energy conversion, production and distribution, and final use of energy in the form of energy carriers. This paper contributes to previous discussions on how to highlight and explore the user side in the analysis of energy systems in an efficiency context. The energy usage systems approach, including end-use technologies and the production of service demanded by a human activity system, is used to promote a dynamic bottom-up perspective on energy. In determining the possible potential for change by increasing energy efficiency, the demand for energy should not be considered synonymous with the demand for neither energy carriers, nor the measurable service volumes (such as kilometres travelled, square metre conditioned space, etc.), without considering the sociocultural context in which the service is being used or called upon. In summary, the predominant paradigm dealing with the energy system as a technical system managing resources and providing energy carriers should thus be complemented with the view of a socio-technical system facilitating and/or managing the services.