Behaviours in transition: Quantifying increases in energy awareness

Wednesday 04-12-2019 - 15:54

Article by Vassilis Ntouros, SAVES 2 Monitoring & Evaluation Lead, NKUA

Preparing tomorrow’s energy consumers to recognize the adverse effects of energy wastage is a key element on planning the future of the European energy market. Educational campaigns raising energy awareness could play a vital role in helping university students achieve valuable energy savings and form habits and lifestyle practices. Aligned with this direction, the Student Switch Off (SSO) and Student Switch Off+ (SSO+) campaigns brought together through the SAVES 2 project aim to encourage students to save energy in both university dormitories and the private rented sector, respectively.

To capture the behaviour change of students and quantify the increase in their energy awareness, two rounds of survey questionnaires were circulated during the 2018-19 academic year; one at the start (baseline survey) and one at the end (follow-up survey). More than 4,300 students in halls of residence, and more than 5,900 students in private accommodation, answered our questionnaires. According to the results from the dormitory survey, at the end of the academic year, a higher share of respondents (+18%) had heard about the SSO campaign compared to the beginning of the academic year and >70% of respondents agreed that SSO made them more aware on what they can do to save energy in their everyday life. Τhe end of year survey showed that a higher proportion of respondents tried to save energy in everything they did (+2%) and in most things they did (+6%) with the highest increases to be observed in the following three targeted energy saving actions;

  • i) “Put a lid on pans when cooking”, +10%,
  • ii) “Boil the kettle only with the amount of water you intend to use”, +4%,
  • iii) “Put on a jumper or an extra blanket instead of turning on the heating”, +4%.

In addition, respondents from all countries agreed on that: a) "Global warming is a problem for society”, b) “Energy conservation contributes to a reduction of climate change impacts”, c) “Everyone including myself is responsible for the exhaustion of energy sources”, and d) “Everyone including myself is responsible for climate change” showcasing the key role energy conservation has in their lifestyle towards tackling the climate crisis. The same trends in opinions with regard to climate change were also observed in the SSO+ surveys.

When it comes to the findings of the private accommodation survey, at the end of the academic year +6% more participants had heard about the SSO+ campaign compared to the beginning and 68% of the follow-up respondents were influenced by SSO+ in a positive way. An encouraging finding is that, in the follow-up survey, the share of those aware of smart meters are higher than in baseline in all countries (+7%). Moreover, in the follow-up survey, a higher share of respondents (+5%) had heard of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and a +3% increase is recorded in the share of those that saw the EPC of their current accommodation before moving in. In addition, more than 60% of the respondents in each country, who had heard of EPCs before, stated that they will take the EPC into account when selecting their next accommodation. Furthermore, student respondents considered the energy efficiency of appliances among the top three criteria when choosing an electrical appliance for their home. Finally, respondents agreed that:

  • Energy conservation contributes to a reduction of climate change impacts;
  • Everyone including their self is responsible for climate change;
  • They feel morally obliged to save energy, regardless of what others do.

In general, in both campaigns, the highest share of respondents felt optimistic about energy saving whereas the second most popular feeling was the feeling of contentment, suggesting that overall students have positive feelings towards saving energy. If just one phrase could capture the general feeling of the participants towards the SSO and SSO+ energy saving campaigns that would be with the words of a Cypriot student during a focus group discussion on the effectiveness of the SSO and SSO+ campaigns: “I’ve learnt so many practical ways to save energy and the project helped me to be aware of how much energy is consumed at my residence”. In concrete results, this is translated into 5.86 GWh of energy saved through the SAVES 2 campaign, surpassing the target savings of 4.06GWh. Undoubtedly, there remains a great deal of effort to be made, however students’ active participation in our campaigns boost our efforts to inspire even more of them to avoid energy wastage, alleviate the climate crisis and protect our common home, planet Earth!

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