Social aspects of innovation. Attitude towards energy saving in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain
To a large extent, the real performance and success of technological systems depend on the users, their behaviour and willingness to change their established routines. Consumer resistance can delay or even obstruct the implementation of innovative technologies and measures, if human factor is not considered.
ebalance-plus project conducted a study to assess the motivation of people to reduce energy consumption and detect main barriers to energy saving in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, the four countries where the ebalance-plus pilot sites are located. The examined countries are very diverse in terms of the property ownership structure, the number of people in an average household, the level of income and the equipment of the households with devices that increase energy efficiency.
Attitudes Towards Using and Saving Energy
More than 80% of energy consumers in the countries surveyed declare that they try to save energy, whenever they can, they take into account the energy efficiency indicators of the electronic equipment and control their spending on energy.
Italians seem to be the most concerned about saving energy (they check indications of energy efficiency on purchased products, pay attention to the price of kWh and other). The least attention to energy bills and the need to save energy is paid by the Danes. The reasons for that should be checked in a subsequent study; one of the hypotheses is that Denmark is already very advanced in terms of usage of the renewable sources of energy and perhaps the Danes believe that further measures are no longer needed. Another explanation may be that, given the relationship between the electricity cost and earnings, in Denmark electricity is the most affordable of the four countries surveyed, so the potential energy savings are the least significant for Danes.
The main factor influencing the willingness to save energy is financial; ecological considerations come second. This pattern mainly refers to France, Italy and Spain. In Denmark, environmental considerations seem to be less important, and the attempt to reduce the bills is explained by the general frugal attitude. In all countries the tendency to indicate environmental considerations increases with education.
When it comes to the disincentives to save energy, the answers vary significantly from country to country. In case of Spain, we can clearly see lack of information about energy saving measures. Interestingly in Italy a big number of respondents stated to be saving energy whenever they can, while in other countries this answer was rarely selected.
Younger respondents, better educated, better-off, prosumers and planning to purchase or expand energy production installations are the ones who tend to be more proactive and look for information connected to energy saving in all countries.
Role of Social Network
As for the question of whether friends of the respondents take action to reduce energy costs, the percentage of respondents in whose case at least some friends or family members take such action is the highest in Spain and Italy. These are also the countries where the smallest group of respondents indicated that they do not consider taking any actions to reduce cost of energy. Own actions go hand in hand with actions in the immediate environment, as well as interest in whether such actions are taken by family and friends.
In all countries surveyed, more than half of the respondents talk about saving energy with other people, the most in Spain (70%) and the least in France (55%).
Most often, people with higher education and rather better financial situation talk about saving energy, more often from big cities than from the countryside. In all countries, these are more often prosumers than not prosumers, those who plan to buy or expand energy production facilities, but also, interestingly, among energy producers, these are more often unhappy with energy production facilities, the effect being most visible in France, while the opposite tendency is in Spain).
The discussions about saving energy are most often held with members of the household (in particular in Spain and Italy), spouses/partners and closest friends, and rarely with salesmen/technical advisors. Such conversations are, therefore, encouraged by strong ties and frequent contact.
It can be assumed that talking about saving energy is an important form of searching for information on the subject. So, social networks can be seen as an important channel through which energy saving can be popularised.
In the next step we will work on segmentation of attitude towards energy consumption of different groups of end users.
Stay tuned for more insights about users’ attitudes towards energy saving.
 The quantitative survey was carried out in June 2020, in the four countries where the ebalance-plus pilot sites are located: France, Spain, Italy and Denmark. The data was collected by an online questionnaire, self-filled by respondents (CAWI), on a random stratified sample (by gender, age, city size, region, and level of education). People who are responsible or co-responsible for paying electricity bills or purchasing electrical appliances in the household were qualified to participate in the survey. A total of 3200 people took part in the survey, 800 in each country. The sample was gender-balanced (51% women and 49% men), people aged 18-65 years were surveyed (average age in the sample was 42 years).