Copenhagen, Denmark — (METERING.COM) — April 16, 2013 – Correctly navigating the interface between policymaking and human behavior is key to achieving sustained reductions in energy consumption, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The latest of a number of studies that have been produced on this topic, the report Achieving energy efficiency through behaviour change: what does it take?, claims to go one step further than these in addressing the distinction between consumer behavior and consumption practices. Most recent academic literature argues that it is the consumption practices themselves that need careful scrutiny as they tend to lock consumers into patterns that are more and more energy intensive and they involve a wide range of actors.
The report states that many factors influence consumer behavior and practices. These include technological developments, considerations of the general economic situation, age, social norms, belief systems and cultural traits, and marketing strategies. Thus, when developing energy efficiency measures or programs a wider variety of actors should be involved from the outset.
Consumers need appropriate frames of reference in order to determine whether their energy consumption is excessive. Meaningful, clearly communicated and continual feedback is therefore essential for a long lasting change in consumer behavior.
The report notes that there are different ways to deliver feedback. However, the key seems to lie in combining different measures, both direct (e.g. from smart meters) and indirect (e.g. enhanced billing). Other interventions include energy audits and community-based initiatives (e.g. group information sharing), with savings of up to 20 percent possible.
Energy infrastructure also plays an important role in determining consumer behavior vis-à-vis energy consumption. Such interaction needs to be considered taking into account possible constraints (asymmetric information, unexpected capital costs, trade-offs to reach an optimal solution, etc.) and the ability of the consumer to deal with a new technology defined by cultural traits, level of education and expectations of convenience.
The success of measures targeting a change in consumer behavior and practices will largely depend on how these expectations are fulfilled, the report concludes.
Alongside the report the EEA has launched an online survey to gain insight on public attitudes towards energy consumption and conservation and measures to facilitate a reduction in energy use.