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Silvast, A., Williams, R., Hyysalo, S. Rommetveit, K., Raab, C. (2018) Who ‘Uses’ Smart Grids? The Evolving Nature of User Representations in Layered Infrastructures. Sustainability 10 (10), 3738.

Available here: https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103738

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ABSTRACT: This article addresses the anticipated use and users of smart energy technologies and the contribution of these technologies to energy sustainability. It focuses on smart grids and smart energy meters. Qualitative accounts given by European technology developers and experts reveal how they understand the final use and social impacts of these technologies. The article analyzes these accounts and compares the UK’s smart meter rollout with experiences from other European countries, especially Finland, to provide insights into the later adoption stages of smart energy and how its impacts have evolved. The analysis highlights significant differences in the likely intensity and manner of user engagement with smart grids and meters: depending first on whether we are considering existing technologies or smart technologies that are expected to mature sometime in the next decade, and second on whether the ‘user’ is the user of smart meters or the user of an entire layer of new energy services and applications. By deploying the strategic approach developed in the article, smart grid developers and experts can give more explicit attention to recognizing the descriptions of ‘users’ in smart-grid projects and to the feasibility of these expectations of ‘use’ in comparison to the possibilities and limits of energy services and applications in different country contexts. The examination of user representations can also point out the need for further technology and service development if some of the envisioned user profiles and user actions appear unrealistic for presently available technologies.

Keywords: expectations, infrastructure, science and technology studies, smart grid, smart meters, sociology of user representations.