Professor, Urban Studies and Planning
Exploring how cities and people use energy
Ph.D. Sociology, University of California, Davis
M.A., Sociology, University of Montana
B.A., Sociology, University of Montana
AT PSU SINCE: 2002
- Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
- Senior Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Environmental policy and practice, zero net energy design, energy behavior and climate, technological change, and urban environmental sustainability
- USP 518: Energy and Society
- USP 588: Sustainable Development Practices
- USP 630: Research Design
Embodied Technology: A Pragmatic Theory of Culture and Human Energy Use Behavior, 1988.
Office: Urban Center, room 370S
Phone: (503) 725.8743
Professor Loren Lutzenhiser explores the ways that cities and people use energy in ordinary and exceptional circumstances. He is interested in how lifestyles shape energy demands and environmental impacts, as well as how policies and social movements affect lifestyles. He asks “Why do people use energy the ways that they do? What motivates people to conserve energy or not? And, how do patterns of consumption and conservation impact the environment?”
His research and findings strive to inform energy conservation policy and programs as the world grapples with a changing climate. Dr. Lutzenhiser teaches graduate-level courses in energy and society, sustainable development practices, and research design for the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. He also acts as research associate with the Center for Urban Studies, the research center of the school.
As senior fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Dr. Lutzenhiser also considers new ways Portland State University can advance the state-of-the-art in an already innovative local-regional energy efficiency and renewable energy industry. He wonders whether the time has come for energy policy to become a formal part of urban and regional planning similar to how climate change is increasingly addressed in city plans. He envisions cities considering their overall resource flows and the parts played by increasingly decentralized energy systems.
As the Principal Investigator of the Advanced Residential Energy and Behavior Analysis (AREBA) project, funded by the the California Energy Commission, Dr. Lutzenhiser studies the State of California’s efforts to model and forecast household energy use and to understand how consumer behavior influences energy demand. This project studies energy behavior in commercial and residential buildings and why some households sip energy while others gulp. For example, California policy mandates that new residential construction by 2020 be "Zero Net Energy" (ZNE), which means homes will have to produce as much energy as inhabitants use. AREBA and collaborating researchers in that state are interested in discovering what kind of resident a ZNE house requires.
Dr. Lutzenhiser recently completed a research project with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Advantage Institute, and Seattle City Light. His team explored why Seattle residents signed up for energy audits, whether or not they invested in major retrofits of their houses and systems, and how they evaluate their experience. The project will inform a Department of Energy program to rate the energy performance of houses across the U.S. and reward buyers who care about energy savings. He recently completed a related project with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Energy Trust of Oregon that studied the biggest “winners” and “losers” of home retrofits.
Prior to joining PSU faculty in 2002, Dr. Lutzenhiser was an associate professor of sociology at Washington State University. Living for many years in Montana, he worked as an executive director for a human resources council and as a state community affairs field representative. The desire for social change at the state, regional, and local level led him to doctoral studies.
Dr. Lutzenhiser recently contributed to the National Academy of Sciences panel report America’s Climate Choices: Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change (2010) and co-edited the book Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society (2009). He has authored and co-authored a number of articles in scientific journals including Social Problems, Energy, Energy Policy, the Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, The American Behavioral Scientist, Environmental Forum, and The International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology.
The nexus of Dr. Lutzenhiser’s work revolves around what energy technology is available to consumers and why consumers make the energy choices they do. Fascinated by renewable energy, appropriate technology, and environmental design, Dr. Lutzenhiser enjoys exploring these subjects from a sociological framework.
What Professor Lutzenhiser has to say...
UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL:
Opportunities to enable learning through real world projects.
ON TEACHING IN PORTLAND:
The city as a living laboratory for urban studies and sustainability experiments.
WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY:
Depth of understanding, healthy skepticism and thoughtful optimism.
ON INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS:
They are an unending source of hope, creativity, and commitment.
FAVORITE URBAN PLACE:
Paris, of course. It’s the light (just kidding...sort of).
FAVORITE NON-URBAN PLACE:
Montana. It is, as they say there, "The Last Best Place.”
There are too many to count.
WHEN NOT TEACHING I... :
Explore the urban landscape; practice the sociology of everyday life.
PC OR MAC?
MAC, of course...all the way back to the first one, which stunned me with it’s elegant simplicity and cartoon-like graphic interface (I was a IBM and DEC geek, used to command lines and noisy printers). I’ve never gone back.