11. Use insights from behavioural science to design effective behaviour change policies

Many aspects of clean energy transitions hinge on behaviour – how people use energy in their daily lives, what appliances they choose to purchase, and how businesses choose to invest and employees choose to act. Evidence shows that well-designed policies, informed by behavioural science, can unlock huge potential for responsible energy consumption. Many campaigns successfully focus on environmental protection and saving money, but motivation for behavioural change can also stem from ethics and values, including religious principles and teachings, or philosophy.

Raising consumer awareness by providing easily accessible and easily understandable data on consumption is an important first step to consumer-driven action. For example, Opower launched a pilot programme with utilities in New Delhi, India to provide home energy reports to residential consumers with peer-to-peer comparisons, which proved successful not only in achieving energy savings but also in building trust between households and power providers. Countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Norway and the United States have also shown positive results on energy savings from home energy reports that compare consumption with similar households in a neighbourhood.

Behavioural sciences can also improve the impact of information provided through campaigns and product labels. To this end, EU energy labels have recently been redesigned to improve clarity and impact based on behavioural research. Public platforms can also encourage citizens to change their behaviour, such as the Count Us In campaign under the European Climate Pact. Elsewhere, Senegal’s AEME has an initiative in coordination with national school administrations to educate students on best practices for responsible energy consumption.

Feedback mechanisms have also proven effective. Highlighting the financial savings from energy efficiency changes in a clear and simple manner has shown results, as evidenced by the new smartphone app from India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency, which estimates the monetary savings from an efficient appliance to help consumers understand energy labels and the benefits of efficiency.

Strong policy support to make benefits visible to consumers and businesses is necessary to address existing inertia and force of habit, and help them adopt more climate-positive choices.

  • Norway has successfully promoted uptake of electric vehicles through price signals and other benefits, such as free parking, to ensure consumer support is sustained.
  • Belgium’s company car system has been reformed to ensure that from 2026 onwards only zero emissions vehicles will benefit from the fiscal benefits offered to company cars.
  • Spain’s NECP includes a measure to establish low-emissions zones in its cities to encourage affordable modal shifts toward bicycles, walking and public transport by working with city governments to transform urban infrastructure.
  • The UK has introduced special licence plates for EVs to promote a shift in social norms toward driving electric models.
  • In Jakarta, the installation of digital payment systems and real-time transit information at train and bus stops has been successful in reducing negative perceptions of wait times and increasing ridership. 
Case studies

Use insights from behavioural science to design effective behaviour change policies

OPower home energy reports in India

BSES Rajdhani Power Limited undertook India’s first large-scale behavioural energy efficiency pilot programme, using Oracle Utilities’ Opower tool to send personalised Home Energy Reports (HERs) to a representative group of 200 000 customers in southern and western Delhi. All 200 000 representative consumers received: (i) bi-monthly paper reports, (ii) a web and mobile application available throughout the day to analyse consumption patterns and see peer-to-peer comparisons, and (iii) electronic home energy reports sent out on monthly basis. Estimated energy savings in the bills of the HER recipients compared to non-recipients is in the range of 1-3%

EU energy labels

The EU Energy Labelling Framework Regulation sets out rules and procedures for establishing energy labelling requirements for energy-related products to be placed on the EU market (regardless of their origin). Energy Labelling aims to provide consumers with information about the environmental performance of products, with ratings currently from A+++ to G based on energy savings (categories are in the process of being gradually adjusted to a simpler and stricter A to G scale). This not only provides incentives for industry to develop more efficient products and innovations beyond the minimum eco-design levels, it also provides consumers with information to make informed choices based on their consumption needs and to identify energy savings opportunities. EU energy labels and eco-design are estimated to deliver energy savings of 230 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2030, or EUR 285 annually for the average consumer on their household energy bills. In a 2019 survey, 93% of consumers recognised the energy labels and 73% of them indicated that the labels helped inform their purchase decisions.

Count Us In campaign

Count Us In is a global communications campaign with the goal to inspire one billion citizens to reduce carbon pollution. Designed to engage a mass “non-activists” audience, it is an online platform that includes 16 simple steps citizens can take to reduce their carbon footprint and persuade others around them to do the same. Steps include reducing plane travel, reducing food waste and meat consumption, starting conversations on carbon pollution with friends and colleagues, etc. Individuals, staff and communities who subscribe to each step can track their progress together, which are counted as part of a global Count Us In aggregator of actions addressing the climate crisis. The initiative recently collaborated with the European Climate Pact to mobilise EU citizens to take these steps by launching a multilingual version of the Count Us In platform. 

Mobile app for energy efficient products in India

India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) launched a mobile app that serves as an awareness and outreach medium under the Standards and Labelling (S&L) programme of BEE for efficient appliances. The app has enabled consumers to compare products based on energy efficiency and monetary cost savings from labelled appliances versus a baseline product, helping make more informed decisions. The app serves the dual purpose of helping consumers compare available products as well as enabling manufacturers to register their energy efficient labelled products and track their progress, thus making the process easier for local manufacturers. All new announcements and updates about the S&L programme and appliances are circulated to the consumers as push messages from the app, thus keeping them steadily informed. 

Norway’s electric vehicle incentives

Norway has gradually introduced incentives for zero-emissions vehicles since the 1990s and currently has a target stating that 100% of new passenger cars and light goods vehicles sold be zero-emissions (electric or hydrogen) by 2025. The incentives were wide-ranging to stimulate consumer uptake. Tax incentives include a progressive tax on vehicles based on their weight and emissions, which makes EVs more economical for consumers. EVs are not only exempt from emissions taxes, but also from a VAT on purchases and leases. In addition, the government incentivises demand for EVs through exemptions or a minimum 50% reduction in road taxes and tolls. Moreover, incentives for EVs also include lower parking fees and access to bus lanes, all of which are designed to increase the consumer appeal of EVs over fossil fuel-based vehicles. Based on the effect of the incentives currently in place, Norway expects to achieve its EV target through promoting a shift in consumer preferences toward EVs, without imposing an official ban on the sale of fossil fuel vehicles. As a result of the incentives, over 60% of new vehicles sold in Norway so far in 2021 were electric, bringing the total EV vehicle fleet to more than 400 000 cars. 

Belgium’s zero-emissions vehicle incentives for company cars

Belgium is reforming its company car system to ensure that from 2026 onwards only zero-emissions vehicles will benefit from the fiscal benefits offered to company cars. Belgium will be slowly phasing out fiscal benefits for internal combustion engine vehicles in the hope that more people will take up non-polluting vehicles. Belgium also wants to increase the number of charging stations around the country and will offer a tax deduction to companies investing in a public charging station. In order to support rapid uptake, Belgium will reduce the benefits over time. For example, the fiscal deduction on zero-emissions company cars will be 100% for vehicles bought in 2026, then will progressively decrease to reach 67.5% from 2031 onwards.

Spain’s low emissions zones

Under its National Energy and Climate Plan for 2021-2030 and the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law that was approved in May 2021, the Spanish government plans to work with local governments to discourage the use of private vehicles in favour of shared use systems and other modes of transport such as walking and cycling. Measures will include the establishment of low-emissions zones, restrictions on private transport (such as restricted access in concentrated urban zones for polluting vehicles), and increased spending on public transport and related infrastructure, all of which are designed to encourage behavioural change that supports emissions reductions and efficiency improvements in the transport sector. The estimated energy savings for this measure is 5 622.9 ktoe of cumulative final energy savings in the 2021-30 period and its total cost is projected to be EUR 3.14 billion in public investment.

UK green licence plates

As part of its efforts to move toward a net zero future and end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, the UK government introduced green licence plates, which include a green flash on the left-hand side of the plate to raise awareness about clean energy vehicles. The government also expects that the initiative will help drivers benefit from local incentives such as access to cheaper parking and entry into zero-emissions zones, all of which will motivate greater uptake of electric vehicles. The first plates were introduced on UK roads in December 2020 and can be retrofitted onto existing zero-emissions vehicles. Research conducted by Nissan and YouGov found that 32% of people surveyed indicated they were more likely to purchase an EV because of the green strip. 

Jakarta Smart City

The Jakarta Smart City initiative has offered some important solutions to Jakarta’s energy and urban challenges. To reduce congestion and GHG emissions, Jakarta has integrated public transport management and payment systems to provide reliable, safe and affordable services. Authorities are thereby transforming the city from car dependency to transit-oriented development. The increased ease and predictability of public transport has helped increase ridership. Under PT JakLingko Indonesia, this comprehensive integration process increased the number of Transjakarta users from around 397 000 per day in December 2017 to just over 1 million per day in February 2020. It also allows the provincial government to collect data on 2.5 million passengers in the Greater Jakarta Area (Jabodetabek) and perform analytics on urban mobility to support continued increases in ridership.