Household Energy Use

L. Dreijerink; S. Waechter (chair); A. Haga; A.M. Griffioen; J. Mastop. Location: A7

Sustainability and energy awareness and behaviour among Amsterdam students

L. Dreijerink & J. Uitzinger

Increasing awareness of sustainability and energy issues among students is a focal point in the official energy plans of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA). Current awareness levels are however unknown. In order to define current levels, IVAM was asked by the UvA/HvA to research the awareness level of their students. Since we assumed that awareness by itself would not lead to more sustainable behaviours, we additionally looked into sustainability behaviour, worldviews, response efficacy, personal values, and their interrelations. 547 UvA students filled in an online panel questionnaire. Awareness levels of sustainability issues, from planet, people, to profit aspects appeared high. Over half of the students indicated that they mostly or often behave in a green way; an exception was flying to holiday destinations. Contrary to our hypothesis, there appeared to be no differences between students from different faculties regarding awareness and behaviour. However students from different faculties showed differences regarding their personal (hedonistic, egoistic, altruistic and biospheric) values. Awareness indeed proved to explain only a modest part of behaviour. A similar study was performed among 450 HvA students, but the results were not yet available at this time.

Desired and undesired effects of energy labels – an eye-tracking study

S. Waechter, B. Sütterlin, & M. Siegrist

Saving energy is an important pillar for the mitigation of climate change. Electric devices (e.g., freezer, television) substantially contribute to the final energy demand. Consumers’ purchase decisions are therefore crucial to successfully reach the energy efficiency goals. Energy labels on products are considered an adequate way of empowering consumers to make informed purchase decisions. Consequently, this approach should contribute to reducing overall energy consumption. However, despite advances in energy efficiency and a mandatory labeling policy, final energy consumption is increasing. This paper provides a systematic analysis of consumers’ reactions to one of the most popular eco-labels, the European Union (EU) energy label, by using eye-tracking methodology as an objective measurement (N = 117). The results support the EU’s mandatory policy, showing that the energy label triggers attention toward energy information in general. However, the information presentation format on the label is insufficient. The label does not facilitate the integration of energy-related information. Furthermore, the current format can bias consumers to focus more on energy-efficiency information, leading them to disregard information about actual energy consumption. As a result, the energy-efficiency gap may increase because excellent ratings on energy efficiency (e.g., A++) do not automatically imply little consumption.

An eco-label effect in the built environment: Performance and comfort effects of labeling a light source environmentally friendly

P. Sörqvist, A. Haga, M. Holmgren, & A. Hansla

People tend to idealize eco-labeled products, but can eco-labeling have consequences for performance? To address this question, 48 university students were asked to undertake a color discrimination task adjacent to a desktop lamp that was either labeled “environmentally friendly” or “conventional” (although they were identical). The light of the lamp labeled “environmentally friendly” was rated as more comfortable. Notably, task performance was also better when the lamp was labeled “environmentally friendly”. Individual differences in environmental concern, but not pro-environmental consumer behavior and social desirability indexes, were related to the magnitude of the eco-label effect on performance. Whilst some previous studies have shown similar placebo-like effects of eco-labels on subjective ratings, this is the first study to show an eco-label effect for artifacts in the built environment on performance, and the first study to relate this effect to environmental concern. Psychological mechanisms that may underpin the eco-label effects are discussed.

Saving energy when others pay the bill: Field experiments in student housing and hotels

A.M. Griffioen, & M.J.J. Handgraaf

Financial incentives are often used to motivate people to decrease their energy consumption. However, these financial incentives are sometimes irrelevant. In these instances, other approaches, for example asking people to commit to save energy or creating a reciprocal response to a non-contingent gift, may offer promising alternatives in motivating individuals to act pro-environmentally. In collaboration with a chain of hotels (the Student Hotel), we have installed detailed measurement equipment in 156 rooms, which measures electricity, hot water, and thermostat use on a minute to minute basis. The hotel allows us to run extensive field experiments to test energy conservation interventions. In our studies we focus on students staying at all inclusive student housing and thus not having a financial incentive to reduce their energy consumption. We are currently running our first experimental study with these measurements. In a pilot study, students (N = 69) filled out a survey which measured their attitudes, norms and intentions regarding pro-environmental behaviour. Our initial analyses show that biospheric values correlate significantly with individual energy use.  Besides these initial findings we will discuss future directions of the project and the studies we intend to run in our ‘living lab’.

Household behaviour in response to real-time pricing

J. Mastop, M. Rietkerk, & S. Brunsting

Acceptability of a real-time pricing market was examined amongst 2000 households on the island of Bornholm (DK) during a three-year European project. In one of the experimental groups participants received devices with which their heating could be automatically controlled, while in the other group participants were only able to respond manually to real-time price. To evaluate how participants perceived this project, several surveys and focus groups were conducted. It was examined to what degree participants changed their household behaviour due to changes in the electricity price, for example by using devices less, or changing their time of use. Furthermore, reasons to participate and motives to continue participating were examined. Results showed that more than 30% of participants indicated to have changed something in the way they used their household appliances. Changes were most frequent for the manual response group. Motives to participate in the project included both environmental (doing something good for the environment) as well as financial arguments. Furthermore, participants felt that the project enabled them to contribute something good to the community of Bornholm. Complexity and implications of doing research within a living lab setting, with a large group of participants, will be discussed as well.