The role of human behavior in energy efficiency should be considered in all aspects of the energy transition. Energy saving lifestyles which are of societal interest, require conscious decisions from energy users. However, long term behavioral change which is triggered by training, awareness activities, incentives and feedback, remains a major challenge. Energy efficiency campaigns should be aligned with the motivations of energy consumers and any recommended energy saving action should be easily integrated into their daily routine to be effective. Within this context, in a recent study we analyzed the impact the Student Switch Off (SSO) information campaign on students living in university accommodation had to those students who had been involved with the campaign during their stay in their university’s dormitories in past years but in this academic year (2019-20) lived in private rented accommodation.
As part of our annual survey to assess the impact of the Student Switch Off+ (SSO+) information campaign on students living in private accommodation, more than 500 students across the seven SAVES 2 countries were eligible to be considered in this spin-off analysis and were separated from the survey sample. As a result, student participants who stated they were aware of the SSO campaign were compared against students who were not aware of the SSO campaign. The differences in the energy awareness levels of the two respondent groups were assessed in order to allow the study of any occurrences of rebound or spillover effects of the SSO campaign. The main findings are summarized below.
Overall, respondents who were aware of the SSO campaign felt better informed about all the issues that involved the energy and environmental performance of their home (i.e what they could personally do to save energy in their accommodation, the choices of tariffs that they had with their energy providers etc.). In addition, respondents who were aware of SSO undertook the vast majority of the questioned energy saving practices (i.e wash clothes at 30 degrees centigrade or less, only wash clothes when they had a full load etc.), more frequently than those who were not aware of the SSO campaign. Furthermore, higher shares of those who were aware of the SSO campaign took all actions to reduce their energy costs whilst in their current accommodation (i.e worn more clothes to keep warm, switched supplier or tariff in the last 6 months etc.) except for the actions of approaching their landlord to buy more energy efficient appliances or buying some themselves. The analysis also revealed that those who were aware of the SSO campaign showed a stronger agreement with most of the given statements about energy related issues (i.e felt morally obliged to save energy regardless of what others do, didn’t consider that saving energy is too much of a hassle etc.). On the other hand, the same group of students didn’t feel as jointly responsible for the exhaustion of energy sources as those who were unaware of the SSO campaign and agreed more that saving energy means they have to live less comfortably.
When it comes to smart metering, 83% of those who were aware of the SSO campaign, (+35% more than those that were unaware), stated that they had heard of smart meters before. In addition, 23% of those who were aware of the SSO campaign (+8% more than those who were unaware) stated that they had a smart meter in their current accommodation.
With regard to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), 74% of those who were aware of the SSO campaign had heard of an EPC before (+25% more than those who were unaware of the SSO campaign). Moreover, 45% of those who were aware of the SSO campaign, (+20% more than those who were unaware of the SSO campaign) stated they had seen the EPC of their current property before they moved in. Finally, both groups, with shares close to 60%, reported that they will take the EPC score of the property into account when selecting their next accommodation.
Concluding, it can be said that the results are encouraging and those who came in touch with the SSO campaign during their stay in university accommodation had preserved much of their energy saving habits some years after they had moved in private rented accommodation. The findings also highlight the importance of raising awareness about energy efficiency; whilst major investments are being made into new technologies, the role of energy saving behavior should be in the forefront of policy interventions as it remains a key issue on reshaping our energy markets. Sustainability requires energy conscious behaviors and as the results showed, informative campaigns on energy efficiency are effective tools for triggering behavioral changes. Because energy wastage matters not only our bank account but mostly our planet.