Reducing the consumption of fossil energy in households - still an unanswered question?

S. Moser; I. Kastner (chair); F. Ecker; I. Wittenberg; S.Bobeth. Location: A12

Symposium: Reducing the consumption of fossil energy in households - still an unanswered question? 

Organiser: I. Kastner

Fostering sustainable development still poses a most important challenge for Society (WECD, 1987); environmental psychology has made substantial contributions to sustainable development, especially in the area of energy transition. Over the last 20 years, psychological research contributed in designing policy measures and persuasive technology, while behaviour models in the field of sustainable development were refined simultaneously. In the symposium we will discuss the topic of “Reducing the consumption of fossil energy in households” from different perspectives. Empirical findings in the area of energy consumption will be presented. It will be focused on households which belong to the main energy consumers, especially in Western Countries. Determinants of several efficiency and curtailment behaviours will be introduced covering in home energy use and household’s mobility behaviour. Additionally, intervention strategies will be discussed that were found suitable to foster sustainable behaviours within these areas.

Good intents but low impacts: Various determinants for different indicators of overall energy use

S. Moser, S. Kleinhückelkotten, & H.-P. Neitzke

Energy consumption in industrialized countries by far exceeds a sustainable level. Previous research on determinants of overall consumption levels has yielded contradictory results as to what the main drivers are. While research on the relationship of environmental concerns and pro-environmental behavior emphasizes the importance of motivational aspects, more impact-oriented research challenges these findings and underlines the impacts of a person’s social standing. The aim of our research was to determine which amount of per-capita energy consumption can be explained by structural, socio-demographic, and pro-environmentally motivational variables. Data come from standardized interviews with a representative sample (N=1014) in Germany. Different indicators of per-capita use were collected and will provide the basis for calculating the overall consumption level. In addition, person variables, lifestyle milieus, self-reported energy use, and motivational variables were assessed. First regression analyses show various patterns of determinants for different indicators of overall energy use. While variance in self-reported use is mainly explained by environmental concern, more impact-oriented indicators, such as the size of personal living space and distances of vacation trips, predominantly correlate with status-relevant predictors. These preliminary results support the suspicion that although environmentally aware people intend to reduce their energy use, they rarely go beyond low-impact actions.

Why households do (not) make major energy-relevant investments

I. Kastner & E. Matthies

In Western Countries, the highest share of energy used in households can be allocated to space heating. Households can substantially decrease their demand for heat - and thus resources - by making high-impact investments in efficiency technology or in systems producing renewable energies. Several intervention strategies have been implemented by actors at various levels in order to foster these investment decisions. However, households’ investment activity in this field is still limited. The strategies’ lack of success may be due to the fact that they are not sufficiently tailored to the decision problem. Yet, little is known about which goals households pursue in (not) making energy-relevant investments and whether there are different types of decision makers. We conducted a discrete choice experiment with 690 home owners to investigate which goals were most relevant in making energy-relevant investments and how these dominant goals interacted with other goals. Monetary goals were found to be most relevant, followed by the reduction of uncertainties; the relevance of ecological goals was comparatively small. In addition, the goals’ relevance was moderated by the decision makers’ value orientation.

Willingness to pay for renewable energy: Determined by perceived autarky?

F. Ecker, U. J.J. Hahnel, L. Korcaj, & H. Spada

The German Government has set a national move towards decentralised energy production via renewable sources. It is assumed that German homeowners will play an essential part in fulfilling this ambitious goal. One of our studies on photovoltaic systems (PV) shows that the aspiration of autarky is a strong predictor of homeowners’ attitude towards PV, which in turn affects their purchase intentions. We expect that consumers’ pursuit of energy-autarky and self-sufficiency influence their investment decisions. Participants completed an online-questionnaire, in which they read three future autarky scenarios. The scope of energy-autarky was varied (autarky level: household/neighbourhood/small town). In all provided scenarios, the future energy supply of households is covered by a combination of decentralised renewable energy systems. After the evaluation of the scenarios concerning feasibility and desirability, participants were inquired about their willingness to pay for electricity and heat in each scenario. Findings on the impact of energy-autarky and self-sufficiency may provide valuable implications for the design of energy management and storage technologies. Especially, systems allowing individuals to produce and manage their own energy might match with homeowners’ pursuit of autarky. The study’s results provide opportunities to adapt these systems to homeowners’ needs.

How can PV-owners be supported in their attempts to reduce consumption of conventional electricity?

I. Wittenberg, A. Blöbaum, & E. Matthies

More than 1.4 million solar photovoltaic systems (PV) are currently used in Germany, with a substantial share being in residential households. Households using PV systems can reduce their demand for energy, especially additional grid electricity by shifting demand and acting energy efficient. In the present study, we examine how electricity consumption behavior of households using PV is influenced by contextual and attitudinal factors. We conducted an online questionnaire with 250 households using PV recruited from 15 photovoltaic related web portals (the survey started in January 2015 and will end in February 2015). Electricity consumption is measured by electricity bills, data received from the grid operator and self-reported consumption behaviors. As contextual factors we assessed what type of PV systems and equipment was used in particular (e.g., considering monitoring and storage option) and what incentives were in place (e.g., energy prices, amount of feed-in compensation).  Additionally, we measured several variables from the norm activation model related to energy use, energy saving and climate protection attitudes as well as sufficiency and frugality. First results will be presented and discussed.

Subjective dimensions of e-mobility - a repertory grid approach

S. Bobeth, E. Matthies, & A. Blöbaum

Motorized individual transportation contributes significantly to energy consumption in households. E-mobility offers the potential to make a contribution to the reduction of energy consumption in households and decrease global environmental problems of climate change and dwindling fossil fuels. However, in Germany, households are hesitant to adopt electric cars. In order to achieve broader public acceptance and overcome initial barriers, it is important to gain a deeper understanding of people's subjective views on the technology. In this study, those views were explored using a combined methodological approach. In an online questionnaire (N=159) with employees at a German university, important information about factors that might influence the acceptance of e-mobility was gathered. With a subsample (N=23), people's subjective views on e-mobility were then further discovered using the repertory grid technique (Kelly, 1955). The elements of the repertory grid interview consisted of different means of transportation, including vehicles with combustion engine, several electric vehicle types and means of public transport. Important factors for the acceptance of electric cars and characteristics of their underlying structure could be identified. The results have implications for future research within the field of e-mobility and the design of promotion strategies for electric cars in the future.