Frustration, confusion and excitement: mixed emotional responses to new household solar-battery systems in Australia
Ransan-Cooper, H and Lovell, HC and Watson, P and Harwood, A and Hann, V, Frustration, confusion and excitement: mixed emotional responses to new household solar-battery systems in Australia, Energy Research and Social Science, 70 Article 101656. ISSN 2214-6296 (2020) [Refereed Article]
In Australia, despite widespread adoption of solar photovoltaic (PV) power, and the growing familiarity with other energy technologies, technologies associated with renewable generation in the home may still present perceived risks to householders and be the subject of contestation. In this paper, we argue that a focus on emotions can complement existing approaches for understanding the messiness and complexity of trade-offs households negotiate as they experience the process of purchasing, installing and using smart energy technologies. We explore emotional responses to a system of automated 'smart' renewable storage designed to support the local electricity network trialed with thirty-four households on Bruny Island, in Tasmania, Australia. We integrate our focus on emotions with a relational-materialist theory of affordances which helps us to unpack the specific features of the technology - which may encourage, discourage, demand, refuse and allow certain household practices as well as trading energy from their battery for financial benefit. The institutional design of the technology delivery which involved minimal decision making power from householders had a significantly negative impact on the lived experiences of householders with the technology. Our focus on affect also revealed the stress and frustration experienced by householders who could not understand and control the technology in the way desired and in line with islander attitudes of self-reliance and autonomy. We can also learn from the positive emotions of enthusiasm, delight and satisfaction experienced by householders. We find affordances theory is a helpful approach for unpacking specific features of the system that provoke different, sometimes even contradictory, responses, yet also suggest refinements to the theory to incorporate the context in which the technology comes to be in people's lives.