Recently we were commissioned by Consumer Focus to research the experience of 15 projects encouraging people to adopt energy efficiency measures in their homes. The report of our research “What’s in it for me? Using the benefits of energy efficiency to overcome the barriers” was released on Friday 15th June.
The report includes observations about the promotion of the Green Deal, The Government’s scheme to “revolutionise the energy efficiency of British properties” due to be launched later this year. There is some concern about how attractive the Green Deal will be for consumers. David Orr, the Chief Executive of The National Housing Association has said that “many residents are simply not interested in the retrofit agenda or having works undertaken to their homes – even when they are free. If the Green Deal is to work, the government will need to invest in promoting and marketing its benefits.”
In general terms, behaviour change is more likely when the benefits of taking action outweigh the barriers to taking action (i.e. the audience perceives there is a favourable “exchange”). The Green Deal rests on a financial “exchange”. A financial barrier is being removed – householders can access loans in order to make energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost, and a financial benefit is being put in place – under the Green Deal’s “golden rule” the loan repayments made by the homeowner must be less than, or equal to, the savings on their energy bill.
The experience of the projects we researched revealed that is necessary to press a wider range of motivational buttons than simply financial ones – some people may value different benefits such as a warmer home or a feeling of avoiding loss. Similarly not everyone is put off taking action by financial cost, issues such as trust in the supplier and inconvenience are important to consider.
As highlighted by the report, creating a favourable exchange so that people take action requires organisations to truly understand their audience (what really matters to them?, what is really stopping them from acting?) and to develop different solutions (services, products, processes and communications) for different audience groups – one size will not fit all.
In the light of this experience, the Green Deal’s focus on a financial exchange does seem to have limited appeal. Therefore, alongside the report, we have produced a Energy Efficiency Behaviour Change Planning Checklist that encapsulates the best practice we uncovered in our research. The checklist is there to prompt those planning projects to consider their audience’s perspective throughout and, as a result, successfully encourage and support energy efficiency behaviour change.
Thoughts on the report and checklist are welcomed, please leave comments below.