Consumer Behavior and Energy Policy: An International Perspective

By Eric Monnier; George Gaskell et al. | Go to book overview
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energy-saving investments is whether the insulation will make their home more comfortable. Savings in fuel bills are another factor but of less importance. On average consumers are looking for payback periods of about 3 years. In their own terms consumers are making rational choices but these choices extend beyond the straightforward tradeoff between costs and savings. Why is this? Our qualitative research underlined the general desire to have a warm and draft-free home, now seen as a basic necessity of life. At the same time people are not confident that insulation will reduce fuel bills and in any event for the well-to-do these bills are a small percentage of household expenditure (approximately 6 percent). While an improvement in comfort from reduced drafts is more or less certain and immediately apparent, energy savings in comparison are a uncertain quantity, distant in time, and fairly insignificant. Given these considerations it is perhaps reasonable that consumers are more attracted to comfort than energy savings. The implication of this that future campaigns should emphasize the comfort-related benefits of home insulation along with energy savings rather than focus exclusively on the costeffectiveness of insulation.

Finally, although grants for insulation measures are valued quite highly, both this study and the findings of the Central Office of Information--of only 50 percent participation among eligible households--suggest that grants may have an indirect effect on decisions. For the upperincome groups the existence of government grants may act to assure people that a particular grant-aided investment is worthwhile. However they may also feel that the administrative procedures involved are time consuming and hardly worth the bother. This suggests that selective grant schemes, targeted on particular consumer groups--.e.g., low-income households--might have a broader impact beyond the group to which they are focused.

In general, energy efficiency programs will be more successful if they take account of the microeconomic and cultural aspects of energy use. If consumers are confronted with information and choice opportunities that do not correspond to the way in which they construct reality, progress toward energy efficiency will be slow.


REFERENCES

ACEC, 1983. Fifth Report to the Secretary of State for Energy, Energy Paper No. 52. London: H.M.S.O. Bates J. J. and Roberts M., 1983. "Recent experiences"

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