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Powering Practices: Developing Scenarios for Energy Futures
Students work in small groups to generate scenarios of future everyday life and think through their energy demand implications.

By: Tom Hargreaves (University of East Anglia)

Session type: Single session, Undergraduate level, Small/Medium/Large size


  • Social practice theory

  • Energy consumption

  • Scenarios

  • Futures thinking


Introduction to the teaching example:

Rather than focusing just on potential future technology, teachers can urge students to consider how practices might be impacted as people's daily lives are affected by energy futures. This exercise aims to introduce students to :  

  1. Social practice theory (particularly as outlined by Shove et al., 2012), 

  2. Scenario development as a future-planning methodology, and

  3. Possible differences between daily practices today and those that might existin a more sustainable energy future.


In the activity, students create hypothetical future scenarios of daily life and consider the implications for energy demand using theories of social practice. They do this through participating in group projects and practical exercises that center on three tasks. 


Task 1 is completed in small groups. Students are given an "energy-using practice" like cooking or showering to examine. They look at the components of the practice, the significant historical patterns that have influenced it, and what potential future trends might have an impact on it. They must then identify what they see as the two most important trends likely to influence the practice in future.

Task 2 requires students to create four alternative future practice situations using the scenario matrix and the two key future trends they have identified (each trend plotted on a different axis running from ‘this trend shapes the practice less than today’ to ‘this trend shapes the practice more than today’). 

Task 3 entails a gallery session where all students can view the scenario matrices of other groups. They take into account their preferred outcomes, what they believe is more or less likely to occur, and their reasoning for each of the outcomes. The usage of the scenario approach and practice theory is discussed in the plenary.

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