Reimagining Energy Literacy

For decades, energy literacy has been a goal that educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders hope to advance among all kinds of energy users -- in K-12 and college environments, workplaces, and at home. Smart technologies, data visualizations, and gamification are all techniques that have been employed to increase users' awareness of the relationship between their behaviors, lifestyle, and the costs of energy use, including impacts on local, regional, and global environments. Despite extensive efforts, a number of core problems frustrate the efficacy of energy literacy projects. 

A pie chart divided into other (orange), cooling (blue), appliances (red), heating (green), lighting (purple), and electronics, (aqua).

Some of these issues include measuring literacy in terms of financial knowledge, engineering terms and models, by focusing too narrowly on appliances, and using individualized paradigms of consumption at the expense of a systems view or localized conditions. The image above, “Where does my money go?” provides an example of how energy users’ relationships are framed financially. The image below, “Three Ways to Increase Your Energy Literacy” focuses on workforce development through STEM pipelines; what might a more general audience model look like, however?

The Energy Rights Project queries the utility of energy literacy, as traditionally conceived, by asking household consumers about the costs of energy, production, and the relationship between behavior and use. In doing so we intend to develop a model of energy literacy that extends established rubrics to include energy systems, social and human-nonhuman interdependence, and policy across scale. 

Cite as: Ali Kenner. (2021) “Reimagining Energy Literacy.” Substantive Logics. The Energy Rights Project. The Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography.