To be more effective at encouraging the adoption of energy efficiency measures by citizens, policy should integrate behavioural and social aspects by looking beyond costs, drivers and barriers.
Scientists have extensively investigated what is behind citizens’ decisions to adopt energy efficiency measures, using different disciplinary perspectives. However, with the exception of economics, social sciences have only recently started feeding the energy policy table. In particular, with the advent of behavioural economics, insights from behavioural sciences have enabled to integrate the human factor in the energy-efficiency policy table. Still, this integration is only in its infancy.
A recently published JRC report Mobilizing citizens to invest in energy efficiency, aimed at further stimulating the integration of the human factor in the design of energy efficiency policies, by providing an overview of concepts and interventions for encouraging decisions to invest in energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency is a key European priority, as highlighted for example in the decarbonisation scenarios in the 2050 energy roadmap, the European Green Deal and the Renovation Wave Initiative.
When citizens adopt energy efficiency measures, not only they reduce their energy bills, but also contribute to the green transition by reducing emissions related to their energy consumption.
Despite this potential, the rate of adoption of energy efficiency lags behind the rate suggested by the total cost analyses that assume citizens to make their decisions driven only by economic motives.
Citizens might not to invest in energy efficiency not only because they need financial support, but also because they face a plethora of non-economic barriers.
Taking into account key conceptual and practical insights from four examples of energy-related social sciences (economics, behavioural economics, psychology and sociology) the authors recommend to analyse energy efficiency decisions through a mixed approach: the first step is analysing the type of decision that has to be encouraged, which can be differently interpreted by policymakers, scientists and citizens. For example, by applying a quantitative and qualitative approach to understand what surrounds the decision to renovate, policy makers would better acknowledge the need for a policy mix that goes beyond economic incentives to encourage the renovation of vulnerable households’ dwellings.
A second recommendation is to implement encouraging measures that are identified through both citizen engagement and objective measurement. Before implementing an objectively method-driven policy measure, citizens should be engaged in a co-design process. As an example, citizens’ experiences, values and meanings connected with their homes might shape their understanding about how to achieve coolth and warmth. Engaging citizens in drafting and co-creating solutions would enable to reflect better their specific needs and concerns.
- Publication date
- 13 December 2021