The Potential for Energy Saving: Lessons Learned from Four Decades of Research
Energy conservation has become an increasingly important topic as climate change continues to rise on the political agenda. According to the European Commission’s Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (2006), making sensible investments in various sectors could reduce energy demand cost-effectively by 25-35%. This number could increase significantly if everyday habits are also changed. Social and behavioral research has identified some general lessons that are valuable for energy practitioners. However, people’s behavior is influenced by their environment, so people respond differently in different contexts. This paper presents some general lessons from four decades of energy research and advice for today’s European energy efficiency practitioners working with small energy users.
Lessons Learned from Four Decades of Research
Lesson 1: Feedback and Information Can Influence Energy Consumption
Research has shown that feedback and information can influence people’s energy consumption behavior. Providing feedback on energy consumption can help people understand how much energy they are using and how they can reduce it. For example, a study by Darby (2006) found that providing feedback on energy consumption reduced energy consumption by 5-15%.
Lesson 2: Social Norms Can Influence Energy Consumption
People’s behavior is influenced by social norms. Research has shown that people are more likely to adopt behaviors that are socially accepted (Cialdini et al. 1990). Therefore, promoting energy-saving behaviors as socially acceptable can be an effective way to influence people’s energy consumption behavior. For example, a study by Abrahamse et al. (2005) found that promoting energy-saving behaviors as socially responsible increased the likelihood of people adopting energy-saving behaviors.
Lesson 3: Incentives Can Influence Energy Consumption
Incentives can be used to encourage people to adopt energy-saving behaviors. Research has shown that financial incentives, such as rebates, can be effective in encouraging people to adopt energy-saving behaviors (Abrahamse et al. 2005). However, non-financial incentives, such as recognition, can also be effective in encouraging people to adopt energy-saving behaviors (Lokhorst et al. 2013).
Lesson 4: Energy Efficiency Measures Need to be Easy and Convenient
Research has shown that energy efficiency measures need to be easy and convenient for people to adopt them. For example, a study by Steg and Vlek (2009) found that people were more likely to adopt energy-saving behaviors if they were easy to perform and did not require significant effort.
Advice for Energy Efficiency Practitioners
Advice 1: Provide Feedback on Energy Consumption
Energy efficiency practitioners should provide feedback on energy consumption to small energy users. This can help small energy users understand how much energy they are using and how they can reduce it. Energy efficiency practitioners can use smart meters, home energy reports, and mobile apps to provide feedback on energy consumption.
Advice 2: Promote Energy-Saving Behaviors as Socially Acceptable
Energy efficiency practitioners should promote energy-saving behaviors as socially acceptable. This can be done through social marketing campaigns, public education programs, and community-based initiatives. Energy efficiency practitioners can also work with local governments to promote energy-saving behaviors as part of their sustainability initiatives.
Advice 3: Use Incentives to Encourage Energy-Saving Behaviors
Energy efficiency practitioners should use incentives to encourage energy-saving behaviors. Incentives can be financial or non-financial. Financial incentives can include rebates, tax credits, and grants. Non-financial incentives can include recognition, awards, and public praise.
Advice 4: Make Energy Efficiency Measures Easy and Convenient
Energy efficiency practitioners should make energy efficiency measures easy and convenient for small energy users to adopt. This can be done by providing easy-to-use energy-saving products and services