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Old habits die hard: using the energy cultures framework to understand drivers of household-level energy transitions in urban Zambia

This paper contributes to the literature on household energy transitions by highlighting the case of household cooking in urban Lusaka, Zambia.

Marie Jürisoo, Fiona Lambe, Matthew Osborne / Published on 8 March 2019

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Jürisoo, M., Serenje, N., Mwila, F., Lambe, F. and Osborne, M. (2019). Old habits die hard: Using the energy cultures framework to understand drivers of household-level energy transitions in urban Zambia. Energy Research & Social Science, 53. 59–67.

Through 32 targeted sector expert and household level interviews, the authors identify normative, material and practice related determinants of the dominant cooking culture(s).

In this study they found that cooking behaviour is determined and self-reinforced through everyday social interactions, such as expectations of food taste, the practice of purchasing charcoal, and the ability to undertake daily chores in combination with cooking. The current dominant cooking culture(s) meets little resistance but is reinforced by external factors such as national policy regulation, lack of attractive alternative technologies and accessible charcoal markets.

The study also explores what might drive change of the dominant cooking culture(s) and finds that perceptions vary notably between households and sector experts. While households generally recognise that a change in cooking culture is complex to bring about – as it is determined by a multitude of intertwined “softer” factors – sector experts consistently highlighted “harder” determinants of cooking behaviour such as fuel availability, fuel price and the cost of alternatives as the main triggers of change.

This mismatch in understanding of how change is enabled about suggests that top-led interventions to diversify cooking behaviour have much to gain from further considering how norms, practices and material culture determine dominant energy culture(s) in a society.

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SEI authors

Marie Jürisoo
Marie Jürisoo

Deputy Director, Operations Director and Acting Deputy Director SEI Oxford

Global Operations

SEI Headquarters, SEI Oxford

Fiona Lambe
Fiona Lambe

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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