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Román, M. O., & Stokes, E. C. (2015). Holidays in lights: Tracking cultural patterns in demand for energy services: TRACKING CULTURAL PATTERNS IN DEMAND FOR ENERGY SERVICES. Earth's Future, 3(6), 182–205.
Abstract: Successful climate change mitigation will involve not only technological innovation, but also innovation in how we understand the societal and individual behaviors that shape the demand for energy services. Traditionally, individual energy behaviors have been described as a function of utility optimization and behavioral economics, with price restructuring as the dominant policy lever. Previous research at the macro-level has identified economic activity, power generation and technology, and economic role as significant factors that shape energy use. However, most demand models lack basic contextual information on how dominant social phenomenon, the changing demographics of cities, and the sociocultural setting within which people operate, affect energy decisions and use patterns. Here we use high-quality Suomi-NPP VIIRS nighttime environmental products to: (1) observe aggregate human behavior through variations in energy service demand patterns during the Christmas and New Year's season and the Holy Month of Ramadan and (2) demonstrate that patterns in energy behaviors closely track sociocultural boundaries at the country, city, and district level. These findings indicate that energy decision making and demand is a sociocultural process as well as an economic process, often involving a combination of individual price-based incentives and societal-level factors. While nighttime satellite imagery has been used to map regional energy infrastructure distribution, tracking daily dynamic lighting demand at three major scales of urbanization is novel. This methodology can enrich research on the relative importance of drivers of energy demand and conservation behaviors at fine scales. Our initial results demonstrate the importance of seating energy demand frameworks in a social context.