Social influence and economic intervention policies to save energy at home: Critical questions for the new decade and evidence from air-condition use

March 24, 2021

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 143, 2021

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To guide effective energy policy-making towards a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms relevant to behavioral change, it is important not only to investigate whether energy interventions succeed or not, but also to explore the underlying reasons that shape each result. However, certain limitations are hindering a global consensus on the effectiveness of two popular types of energy interventions: the ones based on social influence (peer pressure) and the ones based on economic instruments (rewards and penalties). The aim of this paper is to provide a new perspective on the exploration of the factors that affect the effectiveness of such interventions. Based on a review of studies published during the last two decades, an agenda of six critical research questions is thus set up to identify new priority areas of research. The relevance of this agenda is illustrated via a survey that explores the potential of peer pressure and economic interventions designed to influence residential space cooling energy savings in an urban setting. The survey results provide evidence that such a potential can be affected by the type of targeted behavior (efficiency or conservation), by householder characteristics (openness to change and environmental awareness), and by the existence of past influence events. Interestingly, peer pressure is regarded as highly influential independently of the channel through which it is communicated, i.e. offline or online. These observations can assist public policy in countries with a growing emphasis on changing people’s energy behavior to redefine the targeting scope of interventions, thus strengthening their potential.