Back to overview

How cities can foster local action in energy efficiency by utilizing middle actors: Insights from a Swiss case study

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Author Blumer Yann, Wemyss Devon, Moser Corinne,
Project Using formal social groups to promote energy sufficient behaviour in cities
Show all

Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings ECEEE Summer Study 2015
Place Toulon/Hyères


While national policies create settings incentivizing energy efficiency, actual savings are often much lower than what would be technically feasible and economically viable. Reasons for this so-called efficiency gap include individuals not recognizing the need to consume less energy, not having the interest to implement the required changes, or that national policies may simply be ill-fitting to local contextual constraints. Due to their close link to citizens communities are in a key position for closing the efficiency gap. However, as they have limited access to either hard or soft policy instruments, they need to rely on leading by example and providing a fertile ground for local action. Therein, intermediaries (or ‘middle-actors’) play a bridging role. They comprise a heterogeneous group of actors, including schools, leisure or sports associations, construction firms, and energy-related businesses. Distinctively, they work, directly or indirectly, to implement or advise on energy related decisions (e.g., choice of heating systems), distil information, mediate social or technical relations, set behavioral norms, or motivate community action. An ongoing project in Switzerland addresses the question of how communities can foster local action on energy efficiency utilizing intermediaries. It follows a three-step procedure: 1) Potentially relevant actor groups on a communal level are identified and characterized using structured interviews with experts from academia and practice (e.g., communal energy consultants). The characterization includes the different actors’ potential to promote energy efficiency, as well as their motivations to do so. 2) In a case study in the city of Baden (pop. 18,000) the list of actors and their characterization are validated in a workshop with city officials and subsequent interviews with selected intermediaries. 3) This allows developing an empirically validated framework of local intermediaries for communal energy policy. In the paper at hand we embed the study in the current Swiss energy policy as well as in the academic discourse on closing the efficiency gap, and present its concept along with some first insights.