Driving forces for Change in People’s Energy Consuming Behavior

Background
A sustainable and energy efficient future society requires that people change their contemporary behaviors, a challenge that suggests an important role for research into Behavioral and Social Sciences. The aim of this project is to study (psychological) driving forces that motivate behavioral change in regard to efficient use of electricity, subdivided into several subcomponents.

Aims & Approaches
One part of the project focuses on people’s ability to learn to use electricity efficiently from feedback about the electricity cost, with so called In Home Displays (IHDs) for household electricity consumption. For this purpose, we rely on a simulated household in a laboratory environment, allowing us to control the form and rate of feedback while we measure performance. Contradicting a common assumption in the construction of IHDs, our results suggest that immediate, rapid, and detailed feedback is not always an advantage to the consumer.

In another line of research, together with Dr. Cajsa Bartusch and colleagues, we use large-scale surveys and data on electricity consumption to investigate the efficiency of introducing a demand-based, time-of-use electricity distribution tariff and, more generally, to chart what motivates people to change their time-of-use of electricity. The results suggest that the demand-based, time-of-use electricity distribution tariff has modest effects on behavior; in part because many consumers (correctly or incorrectly) perceive that they use very little electricity in the first place, or that they already use all electricity in off-peak hours. Moreover, time-of-use tariffs seem to have an effect on the driving forces underlying behavior, which stresses the need for future research endeavors to look beyond mere behavioral output, and into the mechanisms behind the targeted behavior change.   

A third line of research aims to develop a psychometrically valid instrument that captures the electricity consumer’s degree of “energy consciousness” – that is, their attitudes, motivations, and beliefs, towards energy consumption and specific energy behaviors. One hypothesis, supported by findings from the previously mentioned project, is that many interventions in the energy sector may not only have a direct effect on the target behavior (e.g., time-of-use of electricity) but also “spill-over” effects in related domains (e.g., increased interest in energy efficient household appliances). The proposed psychometric instrument will allow us to track how motivations and beliefs concerning energy (or other pro-environmental) behaviors change over time or as a function of policy interventions.

Keywords
Energy efficiency, Feedback, In Home Displays, Energy consciousness.

Research Group

Project leaders

Dr. Cajsa Bartusch, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering

Management, Uppsala University

Prof. Peter Juslin, Department of Psychology, Uppsala University

Other project members

Links and references

Additional funding (apart from StandUp for Energy)

Energimyndigheten, ELFORSK.