Catherine Grandclément

Researcher / Teacher


I am a sociologist working in the R&D department of EDF, the French national electricity company.
I also teach at Ecole Polytechnique about the management of energy transitions and at Ecole des Ponts on the social insertion of renewable energy technologies.

My research combines aspects of science and technology studies and economic sociology to examine the constitution of people as consumers in the energy sector.

I study the embedded politics of small domestic objects such as meters and appliances which act as mediators toward shaping electricity from a basic utility service into a consumer good that increasingly has to be individually chosen, consumed and paid for.

I have done research on the commercial networks that deliver these objects and other goods and services such as insulation materials and home retrofit works. They are interesting because they enrol householders in the pursuit and payment of energy policy goals, make individual and collective interests overlap (at least temporarily) and transform homes into terminals of energy infrastructures. The connection between official energy policy and the private practices of end-users is however more and more formally established as the consumer has become a core object of energy policy, with consequences on the organizational shape of technological projects and a trend toward the experimentalisation and behaviouralisation of everything. As an effect of this change of focus of energy policy, I have also written on the difficulties of reconciling the projected and actual end-user in the context of R&D projects or in that of new buildings where technical and moral norms of comfort conflict.

This line of research follows from a longer term interest in the devices of consumer desires, initiated during my doctoral dissertation [carried on at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation of the Paris School of Mines, under the supervision of Prof. Antoine Hennion]. I examined the supermarket as a crucial techno-economic machine of the consumer society which replaces and fragments the salesperson into a myriad of non-human selling devices, resulting in a profound transformation of the shopping experience.

Current research

I am the Principal Investigator of the PREMOCLASSE research project which studies the policy and politics of energy labels. Together with EDF R&D, the CSI and the CIRED are partners of PREMOCLASSE which receives funding from the French National Research Agency until 2023.

I do research on the concept of sobriety and its actual uses in the context of an EDF R&D basic research project.

I am currently writing on the paradoxical figure of the energy-saving consumer.

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