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Publication Detail
Is demand side response a woman's work? Domestic labour and electricity shifting in low income homes in the United Kingdom
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd This paper discusses a utility-led research project which piloted smart meters and DSR products (a time of use tariff and a critical peak rebate scheme) with 500 low income households in London. As households set about the task of adjusting their electricity use in response to shifting prompts, they revealed the importance of managing domestic labour to generate value from DSR products and the role of women in carrying this out. The experience is at odds with the smart future more typically imagined in which chore-doing is handed over to feminized AI assistants who orchestrate IoT appliances to create comfort and capture value. Strengers has cautioned against constructing a smart future to serve `Resource Man'. Drawing on trial participants' experiences, the paper develops the concept of `Flexibility Woman' in order to bring the realities of domestic labour more sharply into focus. The paper argues that chore-doing needs to become a narrative in the smart future to understand the burdens and opportunities for `Flexibility Woman' to create value from her labour. It suggests that women unable to afford a surrogate AI wife may find themselves becoming `Flexibility Woman' or else excluded from accessing the cheaper, greener electricity of the future. It also suggests that ignoring gender risks undermining the impacts that policy makers and network operators hope to achieve through DSR. The paper makes a unique contribution to our understanding of how DSR relates to gender roles and what the implications are for the effectiveness and inclusivity of flexibility products.
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