Researchers now say energy efficiency campaigns would be more successful if they were personalised to individual consumers. Household energy consumption has increased steadily in Europe over the past two decades. Households have been estimated to account for 27 per cent of all energy consumption. This is approaching the levels consumed by industry (28 per cent) and transport (31 per cent).
Householders therefore represent an important target for energy efficiency campaigns. One possible explanation for the failure of previous campaigns is their impersonal nature. General energy saving tips and ideas for reducing home energy usage may be inappropriate for individual consumers.
The study conducted by Belgian researchers provides evidence to support a more personalised approach to cutting household energy consumption. The study investigated two main methods for reducing energy usage: personal energy 'diaries' and energy efficiency audits. Based on their findings, they suggest that the most effective strategies involve giving recommendations for improving efficiency on a home-by-home basis.
The success of any such strategy is, however, highly dependent on available finances. Household energy consumption in Belgium is the second highest in the EU after Luxembourg. The researchers calculated that overall energy usage could potentially be reduced by up to a third. However, the practical steps required to achieve this reduction vary considerably, ranging from roof insulation to installation of energy saving showerheads.
The clearest result, say the researchers, is that there is no recommendation that can be generally applied. Most of the householders that were surveyed found the energy efficiency audits valuable, but attitudes towards energy diaries were less positive. This may be due to the more individual and personal nature of the audits. Household members benefited from an hour-and-a-half long session with an auditor, in which they were provided with a full energy efficiency report and list of recommendations tailored specifically to their home with the opportunity to ask questions.
The auditor's interpersonal skills, as well as technical knowledge, were of utmost importance. Energy diaries, in comparison, provided only a general list of recommendations for reducing energy consumption. The diaries involved completing questionnaires about energy usage and keeping a diary of householders' energy-related behaviour, for example which appliances had been used, or when windows had been opened.
The list of recommendations is attached to the diary. The purpose of the diaries is to increase the participant's awareness of their energy habits. However, only a few who used them felt they had learned how to reduce their consumption. Unfortunately, 95 per cent of home owners who had their homes audited were not willing to pay the price of the audit (around 250 Euros), despite the savings they could make in the long term.
Therefore, economic incentives would be required to make a success of such a scheme. Alternatively, web-based tools could be used to provide more personalised recommendations. 1. EEA. (2008). CSI 027 - Final energy consumption by sector. April 2008. Available online: http://themes.eea.europa.eu/IMS/IMS/��
Posted on 11th February 2009
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