Keeping up with the Joneses
Asking how your energy use compares with your neighbour’s might seem like an odd question but comparisons with people around us have actually been shown to be influential.
The United Kingdom government’s Behavioural Insights Team – or Nudge Unit, as it is known – wrote back in 2011 that giving feedback on how energy use compares with similar households nearby has been shown to reduce energy consumption among those whose use is higher than average. It cited actual examples from the United States.
However, this type of “nudge” may work differently in different countries, with The Economist reporting an interview in which French government behavioural adviser Oliver Oullier says telling someone in France their neighbour is using less electricity “is not sufficient”.
Building types matter too
Changing behaviour is only one part of the energy saving equation. The energy efficiency of buildings also matters a lot too.
Writing in The Guardian last week, LSE Cities executive director Philipp Rode (who also co-directs the cities workstream of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate) told how “there can be an enormous – as big as 20-fold – gap in the heat-energy demand of different contemporary buildings”.
Rode wrote heating is typically the biggest factor, saying about 70% of energy use in residential buildings in Europe is heating related.
So if trying to save energy and save money on electricity, it may pay to look at your neighbours and pay close attention to the efficiency of your home too.