Improving Energy Efficiency: The Significance of Normativity

The failure of the global community to effectively address many large-scale environmental challenges calls into question the existing regulatory approaches. A large number of these challenges are diffuse issues which have, over the years been targeted by significant and sizable regulatory frameworks and yet the challenges persist—energy efficiency is one such issue and is the focus of this article. Increasing monitoring or enforcement to achieve improvements in regulatory compliance is too expensive in the context of diffuse problems due to the scale and costs such activities would entail. We suggest a focus on the fit between regulatory frameworks and norm creation may identify more fruitful routes to regulatory reform. Drawing on the ‘interactional account of law’ as a framework, this research uses new empirical data from a survey and a set of interviews to investigate the failure of energy efficiency regulatory frameworks at achieving energy efficient norms of behaviour in industry. We look at Canada and the UK as our case studies and our emphasis is on industry actors as they represent a significant and yet understudied area of society. We find that though existing regulatory structures seem adequate to generate general shared understandings around obligations to engage in energy efficiency actions, more specific shared practice around actually engaging in these actions remains elusive, resulting in a failure to engender norms of behaviour. These failures, we suggest, link directly to an inadequate fit between the regulatory tools and Fuller’s criteria for the internal morality of law.


Elizabeth Kirk, University of Lincoln, Lincoln Law School
Laurel Besco, University of Toronto Mississauga, Department of Geography, Geomatics and Environement and Institute for Management and Innovation