World climate summit in Bonn: Professor Löschel guides a discussion on “Energy Savings in Housing”

© Lehrstuhl Prof. Löschel

How to sensitize private households for energy conservation? Under which conditions do campaigns on energy saving succeed? How can science evaluate interdependencies? Professor Andreas Löschel (University of Münster) and other leading environmental economists presented scientific results from current projects on these matters at the Side Event “Energy Savings in Housing” that took place in the course of the world climate summit in Bonn (COP23).

The event was jointly hosted by the University of Münster and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and took place in the pavilion of the EU. It offered a lively discussion with a great variety of contributions from behavioural research, the corporate sector and consumer advice centers. An environmental psychologist of the University of Groningen, environmental economists of the ZEW and the University of Münster, as well as representatives of the South Pole Group, Microsoft and the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia discussed and jointly presented their findings.

Campaigns on energy saving in private households on the test stand

Prof. Dr. Andreas Löschel, director of the CAWM, and Dr. Martin Kesternich, deputy director of the research field “Environmental and Resource Economics, Environmental Management” at ZEW, highlighted the challenges in analyzing interdependencies to evaluate campaigns on energy conservation. Dr. Martin Kesternich provided insights into a recent field study that is realized in the framework of EU-financed Horizon-2020-project “Step by Step”. In this study, after households are contacted personally, researchers individually accompany them by means of a web-based platform that provides tips for energy saving and feedback to the participants. Kesternich stressed that one of the main challenges in energy saving campaigns was to directly address the households and to sensitize them for the topic without prior knowledge of their specific needs and experiences. Therefore, they used a “foot in the door”-technique, providing households with easily feasible tips that gradually increased over time. Prof. Andreas Löschel is facing similar challenges within two EU-financed projects: VISE – a virtual Institute for Smart Energy and Horizon-2020-project PENNY and ENABLE.EU.

Saving energy by means of technology: Retaining control

Other contributions from the panel stressed the importance of individual motives for energy conservation. While some households mainly emphasized financial aspects, others focused more on social norms and their independent action, e.g. their contribution to climate protection. This range of motives also reflected in the panelists’ assessments of possible areas of tension between the use of data-based technology on energy consumption regulation and the consumers’ autonomy. Even though those technologies could support households in implementing their savings targets, consumers would often lose trust in complex systems, especially when they were using detailed and sensitive data. Therefore, all participants agreed that successful technological solutions always need to take into account individual needs: The consumers have to retain control.

Profitable Side Event in Bonn

At the end of the event, Prof. Löschel summed up the event’s exciting impulses for decision-makers and consumers in the rapidly evolving digitalization of the energy sector. Especially the new possibilities to reduce energy consumption in buildings lead to an interesting discussion. The panelists drew the conclusion that both consumers as well as the regulatory framework play an important role in raising the technical potential of reducing energy consumption in households.

[Copyright: Chair of Microeconomics with a Focus on Energy and Resource Economics]

[Picture: Chair Prof. Löschel]