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Energy Technology and Behavior: Opportunities for Research and Innovation Energy, Technology and Behavior Workshop Ontario Centres of Excellence Keynote Address Toronto, Ontario, Canada 11 June 2009 Paul C. Stern U.S. National Research Council Questions to be Addressed

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energy technology and behavior opportunities for research and innovation
Energy Technology and Behavior:Opportunities for Research and Innovation

Energy, Technology and Behavior Workshop

Ontario Centres of Excellence

Keynote Address

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

11 June 2009

Paul C. Stern

U.S. National Research Council

questions to be addressed
Questions to be Addressed
  • How large is the need for reduced energy use?
  • What is the potential for increased energy savings in the household sector?
  • What are the barriers? Why has the potential not been achieved?
  • How much of the potential reduction is reasonably achievable? How?
  • What is possible beyond the household?
  • What is the role of behavior beyond energy efficiency?
how big is the need
How big is the need?

Source: International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2007


Other appliances and lighting 8%

Space heating 6%

Water heating 3%


Air conditioning 2%


Refrigerator 2%



Automobile 9%



Personal truck 5%


Air travel 3%



Recreation 1%





Apparel 2%

Others 1%


Personal care 2%

Households account for a major portion ofenergy use2001 U.S. Energy Use ProfileSource: Shui Bin, Joint Global Change Research Institute (forthcoming 2008)


the efficiency gap energy savings with available technology no net cost
The “efficiency gap”—Energy savings with available technology, no net cost

Estimated potential emissions reduction from cost-effective use of existing technology, U.S. households (Dietz, Gardner, Gilligan, Stern, and Vandenbergh, in preparation)


Building shells 25.2

Home heating and cooling efficiency 12.2

Efficient home appliances 22.8

Vehicle efficiency 63.7


Home equipment adjustments, maintenance 15.1

Daily in-home actions 25.3

Auto maintenance 8.6

Driving behavior 24.1

Carpooling, trip chaining 36.1


TOTAL 233.1 36.6

(of sector)

how can this gap persist
How can this gap persist?

The dominant analytical model

(the Physical-Technical-Economic Model, or PTEM; Lutzenhiser, 2009)…

…does not adequately explain behavior

The model:

Energy consumption will be reduced if and only if:

  • Existing technologies can provide energy services with less energy
  • They do so at zero or negative net cost
a classification of household actions
A classification of household actions
  • Household actions that reduce direct energy use can be classified by their behavioral demands
    • Adopting more efficient technology
      • Weatherization investments (including HVAC)
      • Other energy-efficient equipment
    • Changing use of technology
      • Adjustment of household equipment
      • Maintenance of household equipment
      • Daily actions or routines
a behaviorally realistic analysis the context of behavior
A behaviorally realistic analysis:--the context of behavior
  • First cost of efficiency improvements (not only life-cycle cost)
  • Split incentives (e.g., owner – renter)
  • Supply chain issues (choices by manufacturers, builders, retailers, repair personnel, etc.)
  • Regulatory barriers (e.g., utilities do not invest unless they are allowed to earn returns)
  • Difficulty/impossibility of getting useful, credible, targeted information on savings from specific actions
  • Infrastructure barriers (e.g., suburbanization)
  • Consumerist cultural pressures (increasing home size, vehicle power over time)

Lesson: the context of household choice constrains the ability to reduce emissions

a behaviorally realistic analysis psychological issues
A behaviorally realistic analysis:--psychological issues
  • Invisibility of energy use and savings
  • Available information is not easily to understand
  • Cognitive heuristics and habits
    • availability heuristic—focus on the actions that are easiest to think of but not the most effective
    • divided accounts—energy efficiency treated as an expenditure, not compared to other investments
  • Economizing on the cognitive effort needed to get useful, credible, targeted information
  • Motives beyond self-interested cost minimization


  • Reducing external barriers to change is not sufficient
  • Reducing psychological barriers is also not sufficient
implications for action what not to do
Implications for action: What not to do
  • There are usually multiple barriers to taking any new action
  • Policies typically address only one barrier—with limited results
    • Prices and financial incentives produce change, but
      • the efficiency gap is the change they fail to produce
      • they could be made much more effective
    • Information on what to do: Necessary, but of limited value by itself
    • Persuasion: Difficult to change attitudes, and doing so rarely changes important behaviors
implications for action what to do
Implications for action: What to do

In general terms, we have known since the 1980s:

The most effective policies are multi-pronged:

  • For technology adoption: Strong weatherization programs (Hood River and Bonneville programs, USA, 1980s): 20%+ retrofits/yr
    • Strong financial incentives to lower first cost
    • Convenience
    • Quality assurance
    • Community-based social marketing
  • For technology use: Energy-use feedback reduce consumption 5-15% with existing technology
    • Credible, targeted information on savings achieved
    • Frequent feedback
    • Community-based social marketing
strategy for finding effective actions
Strategy for finding effective actions

The details vary. So…

  • Identify the behaviors with greatest carbon impact (and who the key actors are)
  • Identify the barriers to adoption for each target behavior
  • Address multiple barriers with multiple interventions and targets—“full court press”
  • Full-court press is behavior specific
how much of the potential can reasonably be achieved
How much of the potential can reasonably be achieved?

Estimates for USA based on most effective practices (Dietz, Gardner, Gilligan, Stern, and Vandenbergh, in preparation)

Ground rules:

  • Use only technology available at retail
  • No new standards or regulations
  • Choose actions with negative cost, zero cost, or attractive returns on investment to consumer
  • No appreciable change in lifestyle/loss of well-being
  • No appreciable change required in preferences for energy services (comfort, speed, etc.)

[Emissions reductions without suffering: a timid program]

What can be achieved?Reasonably Achievable Energy Use Reduction (estimated % of U.S. national household share, year 10)

Category10 yr

Weatherization, HVAC 5.1

Other Equipment 9.0

Maintenance 1.5

Adjustment 0.4

Daily Activities 3.8

TOTAL 19.8

…and there are other behaviors not covered

(e.g., US regulation mandates phaseout of incandescent lighting in 5 yr, preempting behavioral interventions and adding 4-5%)

national and global implications
National and Global Implications
  • These behavioral changes can reduce U.S. emissions by 7-8% by year 10 (0.12 GtC), from only one sector, and without sacrifice
    • slightly more than the entire emissions of France

And this estimate is conservative

  • It does not include technologies on the verge of mass market penetration (e.g., heat pump water heating and space conditioning, electric vehicles, LED lighting)
what would it take to achieve this
What would it take to achieve this?
  • Full-court press: programs that combine policy types (as learned in 1980s)
  • Research to identify important targets and the barriers and opportunities for each
  • Careful program design with experimentation to find most effective full court press
  • Research on how best to design for particular actions (information systems, messages, incentives)
  • Research to evaluate programs and learn from experience
  • Financial incentives—probably large ones for home weatherization
beyond the efficiency gap
Beyond the efficiency gap
  • Consumer expenditures that may not produce good financial returns to consumer but have social returns
    • Indirect energy use (effect of non-energy expenditures on commodity chains – 27% of U.S. emissions)
    • Green power, carbon offsets, etc.
  • Reengineering of consumer products
  • Tighter product standards or regulations
  • Downsizing houses, cars, etc.
  • Controversial behavioral regulation (e.g., lower speed limits)
  • Lower standards for thermal comfort, mobility
research and innovation beyond the efficiency gap
Research and innovation beyond the efficiency gap
  • Demonstration projects to raise visibility
  • Trustworthy, credible information on the costs and environmental/social effectiveness of these actions
  • Finding and addressing all the barriers to change, as for closing the efficiency gap (not just technical and financial barriers)
opportunities in organizational behavior
Opportunities in Organizational Behavior
  • Reduce direct emissions by organizations
  • Act to reduce emissions in commodity chains (e.g., supply choices, product design for life cycle emissions reduction, changes in product mix)
  • Develop new low-emission technologies
  • Develop user-friendly information products (e.g., better smart meters, building ratings, carbon calculators)
  • Develop and market green designs for buildings, transport, settlements
  • Seek green marketing options that really reduce emissions
research and innovation for organizational behavior
Research and innovation for organizational behavior
  • Research to identify opportunities in supply chains
  • Research to identify major barriers to organizational change
  • Campaigns to demonstrate new options to decision makers
  • Trustworthy information systems for consumer products (e.g., certification, labeling) to allow customers to select products with low life cycle emissions
beyond energy efficient technology
Beyond energy efficient technology
  • Green design for buildings, transportation, communities
  • Distributed renewable energy supply systems
  • Large-scale energy technology (renewables, biofuels, CCS, etc.)
research and innovation beyond energy efficient technology
Research and innovation beyond energy efficient technology
  • Research and demonstrations of green designs taking users into account
  • Research to understand and address barriers to adoption of distributed renewables
  • Research to identify public concerns with emerging energy technologies
  • Participatory design and monitoring to address concerns
public policy opportunities
Public policy opportunities

Policy goal: Make it easier to be green

  • Incentives to overcome financial barriers
  • Energy technology R&D
  • Public investments in green design for buildings, transport systems, and communities
  • Incentives for more compact settlements
  • Support for demonstration projects
  • Research to identify and overcome barriers to behavioral change
more policy opportunities
More policy opportunities
  • Investments in measurement and indicators to make energy information accessible, credible, and targeted
    • Improving consumer energy information (e.g., home energy ratings)
    • Make monitoring technology consumer friendly (smart meters, heat loss sensors)
  • Develop community-based programs (e.g., ride sharing, bicycle programs, energy saving competitions)
one more policy opportunity critical conversations
One more policy opportunity:Critical conversations
  • National conversations about long-term goals and the role of technology
    • Engage energy users, product suppliers, and government agencies to

--find new market opportunities

--new product mixes

--modify supply systems

--address barriers for new technologies and designs

  • Ambitious goals cannot be reached (or attempted) without developing shared commitment
sources and contact information
Sources and contact information

G.T. Gardner and P.C. Stern, Environmental Problems and Human Behavior, 2nd ed. Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002.

P.C. Stern, Environmentally significant behavior in the home. Pp. 363-382 in A. Lewis, ed., The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Economic Behaviour, Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Gardner, G.T., and Stern, P.C. The short list: Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Limit Climate Change. Environment, 2008, 50(5), 13-24.

L. Lutzenhiser et al., Behavioral assumptions underlying california residential sector energy efficiency programs. Paper for California Institute of Energy and Environment, April 2009.

T. Dietz, G.T. Gardner, J. Gilligan, P.C. Stern, and M. Vandenbergh, The behavioral wedge: Household actions can rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions, in preparation.

Contact: Paul C. Stern

National Research Council, Washington DC, USA