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Energy Insight: Energy efficiency and behaviour change

"...wider societal changes will be needed.  [EI] Members emphasise the need for more engagement of energy consumers in the [energy] system. Adopting new technologies and shifting demand through behavioural change are seen as necessary on the consumers' side."  Energy Barometer, Energy Institute..


United Nations  Sustainable energy for all 2014-2024.  Global plan of action. 
Includes: Create more incentives for a change in behaviour to manage and allocate resources in a more sustainable manner: activities relating to the Decade should promote sustainable energy production and consumption so that energy resources are used in a more equitable manner.

World Energy Council, Energy Efficiency: A straight path towards energy sustainability, November 2016, 152 pages,

World Energy Council, World energy issues monitor 2021: humanisijg energy 2021, 2021, 51pages.


European Commission Directorate-General Energy  Study on energy efficiency and energy saving potential in industry and on possible policy mechanisms.Contract No. ENER/C3/2012-439/S12.666002.  ICF International,  1 December 2015

EU Energy efficiency directive 2012  
Under the Energy Efficiency Directive, EU countries must set up an Energy efficiency obligation scheme.  This scheme requires energy companies to achieve yearly energy savings of 1.5% of annual sales to final consumers. In order to reach this target, companies need to carry out measures which help final consumers improve energy efficiency. This may include improving the heating system in consumers' homes, installing double glazed windows, or better insulating roofs to reduce energy consumption.  This page gives links to pdfs showing what individual European countries are doing.

START2ACT  - offering free-of-charge mentoring and training activities in nine European countries.  Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Delivered in the UK by the Carbon Trust (see below)

European Environment Agency
Achieving energy efficiency through behaviour change: what does it take? Technical report No 5/2013,  EEA, 10 April 2013 
This report provides a review of available literature on measures targeting consumer behaviour in order to achieve energy savings. It focuses on: Energy efficiency measures and behaviour change; structural factors - such as the impact of liberalisation and the energy mix and energy tariff structures; the rebound effect.

UK Government

Department of Energy & Climate Change
What Works in Changing Energy-Using Behaviours in the Home? A Rapid Evidence Assessment Final Report Undertaken by RAND Europe.  November 2012. (published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government) 
The main objective was to answer this question by systematically reviewing the evidence around domestic behaviour change, with a particular focus on international evidence. 

Behaviour Change and Energy Use    This paper draws on evidence from behavioural economics and psychology to outline a new approach to enabling people, at home and at work, to reduce their energy consumption and reduce their bills in the process.  The Behavioural Insights Team has published a report setting out how we can use behavioural insights to help people save energy and money. The report, Behaviour Change and Energy Use, launches a series of trials and changes to government policy which will make it easier for individuals to green their homes and use less energy. DECC, 6 Jul 2011 (This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government)

An introduction to Thinking about ‘Energy Behaviour’: a Multi Model Approach.  DECC, December 2011  "The purpose of this paper is to set out a number of different perspectives that can be used to understand and interpret behaviour. It sets these out within a framework that demonstrates how each approach can contribute something valuable towards developing a broad view of behaviour"

Behavioural Insights Team  (BIT) Previously part of the Cabinet Office, BIT is now jointly owned by the UK Government; Nesta (the innovation charity); and its own was the world’s first government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural sciences. 
• making public services more cost-effective and easier for citizens to use;
• improving outcomes by introducing a more realistic model of human behaviour to policy; and wherever possible,
• enabling people to make ‘better choices for themselves’.

Smart Meters Derogation Guidance: supporting energy supplier applications for trials of in-home display alternatives  , BIT. April 2016.  The evidence that DECC receives through the trials will inform considerations on whether the In Home Display mandate remains optimised to deliver consumer benefits, specifically, whether alternative feedback devices and methods can deliver equivalent or greater consumer benefits to In Home Displays.  

UK non-Government

Carbon Trust
Low Carbon Behaviour Change: The £300 million opportunity.  Carbon Trust, 19 December 
Carbon Turst estimates that workplaces could save £300 million a year through encouraging employees to adopt behaviours that reduce energy use and waste.  This report outlines how to deliver a successful behaviour change campaign.

START2ACT programme for young SMEs and startups  Free energy efficiency consulting and mentoring for startups and young SMEs.  Announced by BEIS on 14 July 2017, but not yet trading.

Carrots, sticks and sermons: influencing public behaviour for environmental goals.   December 2003. This report from the think tank Demos "identified current thinking and best practice in the art of public influencing" and was designed to assist DEFRA.

Energy Consciousr Organisation (ENCO)  "aims to engage, empower and equip organisations and energy professionals to enable significant energy savings through people."

Energy Saving Trust  Save energy at home – independent and impartial advice

To encourage home energy behaviour change, move beyond financial goals, David Weatherall, EST, Guardian 14 February 2014 

UKERC, "Mapping energy participation: A systematic review of diverse practices of participation in UK energy transitions, 2010-2015", April 2017, research paper, 115 pages, “What does public participation in energy transitions look like at a relational 'whole systems' level?

UKERC, Energy, economy and societal preferences, ongoing programme, “The  theme will also explore how public attitudes and values about energy system change relate to issues of fairness, affordability and trust; and how these values influence decision-making.”

Academic / Learned society / Trade Association

British Psychological Society (BPS)
Behaviour change: energy consumption  (pdf) Important to aim for organisational change as well as individual; changes need to be reinforced by feedback or they are gradually forgotten; people go for small rewards in the near future rather than bigger rewards later; default modes are accepted so, for example, the default should be lights are off and need to be switched on.

The Demand Centre Research projects in relevant areas including:

Energy Institute

Energy Aware - An innovative 30-minute online tool focussed on raising energy awareness in the workplace, certificated by the Energy Institute

Understanding your energy culture is a new tool adapted from the well-known Understanding your (safety) culture tool.  The Energy Institute has adapted the research and learning behind improving safety culture to improve energy management performance.

The EI eLibrary (an EI member benefit) contains millions of resources including ebooks, scholarly journal articles, and other research relevant to energy, with a large subset discussing energy consumption behaviour.

ESTA (Energy Services and Technology Association)

Member case studies  including 23 on Behaviour change

Stanford University – Precourt Institute for Energy
 – Precourt Energy Efficiency Center
Dr. Carrie Armel  is a research associate at Stanford’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC) where she investigates the diverse ways in which an understanding of human behavior can lead to improvements in energy efficiency.  Recent presentation: Behavior, Energy and Climate Change: A Solutions-Oriented Approach.  Her focus is on what is happening in the USA and how to design equipment, buildings, urban layout, etc to influence behaviour into energy efficiency.  Gives examples of schemes that have been successful in improving behaviour to increase energy efficiency.
“So to sum up the essence of this talk, if we want to realize the energy efficiency gains that are possible, it will take acknowledging that the problem is a design failure, not a people failure.”

ETHOS - Searchable database of doctoral studies from UK universities, including multiple on energy consumption behaviour. 

Energy company initiatives

British Gas
Using your Smart Energy Report information: Where do I get energy saving products to reduce my usage?;  Set your heating efficiently (video);  DIY Draught proofing (video) 2017 

E.ON UK plc Affordable Warmth scheme  Free cavity wall insulation and free loft insulation for qualified households through the government's Affordable Warmth initiative.

Other organisations

RAC  How to save fuel – the ultimate guide  14 Feb 2017   Reduce motor fuel consumption.

Other countries


Advances in understanding energy consumption behavior and the governance of its change – outline of an integrated framework
Front. Energy Res., 15 June 2015 


Building Efficiency Initiative 
Changing Culture: The Behavior-Based Approach to Energy Efficiency - An interview with Dian Grueneich by Kelly Smith  29 June 2010   The approach of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) towards promoting energy efficiency.

Hunt Allcott  Social norms and energy conservation  Journal of Public Economics, 2011, vol. 95, issue 9, 1082-1095
This paper evaluates a programme encouraging residential energy users across the USA to reduce their consumption by telling them what their neighbours consume - estimated to reduce average energy consumption by 2.0% but with a range of 6.3% to 0.3%.

(Originally published July 2017; updated and links checked April 2021)

Subjects: Energy efficiency

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