Whilst major investments are being made into new technologies and materials for improving energy efficiency, there are a number of human-related factors that also need to be addressed. Strategies and targets need to be in line with the motivations of individual building users and owners, and actions need to be easily integrated into daily behaviours to be effective. Changing this daily behaviour is a major challenge, requiring training and awareness activities, as well as feedback measures and incentives to trigger long-term change. Behavioural sciences are increasing being applied to energy efficiency polices, resulting in new policy interventions that can have high impact on user behaviour.
Behavioural issues need to be considered in all aspects of the energy transition, from improving awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energies, to making sure that technologies are easy to use, and that financial decisions can be made in a wellinformed manner.
The challenge is to consider how real people react to everyday decisions and situations, how they plan in the long-term, and how they therefore make investment decisions.
Whilst new technologies and materials are widely available, encouraging uptake and proper use require individuals to make choices which are in the long-term societal interest. For many, this may clash with their own (or perceived) interests, or they may simply be unaware of the options available to them. Long-term planning and investment decisions, such as building insulation and installation of new technologies, require conscious decisions with an awareness of benefits, and available financial means.
However, even once investments have been made retrofitting buildings with energy efficient technologies can sometimes trigger ‘rebound effects’, where lower energy bills simply encourage users to use more energy, or where cost savings are directed towards purchasing other energy intensive goods and services. The resulting energy efficiency gap – the difference between expected and actual impact – is related to the behaviour of its users. This is why we must consider the role of behaviour in energy efficiency, in everything from when to make investments in building renovations, to when to use and operate electrical equipment, and the settings and modes in which to use them.