To recap, we concluded in the previous entry that knowledge is necessary for influencing behaviour albeit insufficient by itself to invoke actual behavioural changes. As such, I shall now elaborate on other factors (spreading over 4 different sections) which when combined with knowledge, could greatly increase the possibility of inducing actual energy saving behaviour.
Self- interest is often a strong motivator propelling human behaviour. Accordingly, energy conservation decisions that are in the best of one’s interest are often adopted readily. For instance, the strongest predictor of whether one would invest in big-ticket energy efficient home renovations (e.g. insulating walls and attics) depends on whether one owns the property (Black, Stern & Elworth, 1985). Juxtaposed with renters, home ownership invokes the notion of personal benefits that can be gained from the renovations in terms of increase in energy savings, comfort and property value.
A common approach to generate self-interest in energy conservation efforts within the household often involves monetary incentives such as loans or rebates. However, one should pay heed to the limitations of this approach.
Firstly, financial incentives are often more effective in encouraging “efficiency behaviour” than “curtailment behaviour” (Ritchie & McDougall, 1985). Simply put, monetary reward has more success in inducing the purchase of an energy efficient air-conditioner than to reduce the usage of one. Such an observation could be attributed to the differing level of commitment required for each type of behaviour. For instance, “efficiency behaviour” usually involves a one- time event whereas “curtailment behaviour” requires a repetition of the adjusted behaviour extended over a long period of time (Clayton & Myers, 2009). Policymakers should also be aware that investment in energy-efficient technology has a greater impact on conservation than do energy-saving curtailment behaviour on existing systems (Olander & Thogersen, 1995).
Secondly, monetary incentives consistently fail to create enduring changes in the rewarded behaviour. Katzev and Pardini (1987) in their study on recycling behaviour, found that the withdrawal of financial rewards reduced individual’s recycling frequency to pre-intervention levels. This could be due to the effect of “over-justification”, where individuals attribute the motivation behind their actions from an intrinsic to an extrinsic one (De Young, 1996).