Dhe energy consumption is to be reduced in many places: according to the government’s will, the aim is to reduce Russian energy supplies, costs and greenhouse gas emissions. So far, however, the appeals have not had any decisive fruit. According to a new study, information about one’s own consumption is important on the way to saving energy. Because who knows exactly how much it will cost if the temperature in the apartment drops by a few degrees or less hot water flows through the pipe?
For showering, behavioral economists studied with different groups of 570 households how consumption can be reduced with small help. In the field experiment of the Essen RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research and the University of Bonn in research partnership with the Bochum Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS), water consumption decreases most clearly when “smart shower heads” display the consumption while showering: These direct feedback reduces the average water consumption per shower by around 29 percent. In the study, the shower head changed color depending on how much water accumulated – and flashed red when there was high consumption. “When people see how much they use for an activity, they try to save,” says project manager Mark Andor of the FAZ
The economist therefore suggests continuing to use these possibilities of digitization: Shower heads that display consumption should also be installed in schools, sports facilities and other public buildings in order to see how high the savings are. The study aims to find out how behavioral economics interventions support the sustainable use of scarce resources. “In the heat market and electricity market, real-time feedback is promising because without it, people have a hard time estimating how much they are using,” says Andor. The head of the RWI research group “Prosocial Behaviour” worked together with his colleagues Lorenz Götte, Michael Price, Christoph Schmidt, Anna Schulze Tilling and Lukas Tomberg in the experiment on “Digitalization of Sustainable Behaviour”.
Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has just started an advertising campaign “80 million together for energy change” with several business associations after a few appeals. His tips: defrost the freezer compartment regularly, change the shower head, switch the lighting in the office to LED. “If a lot of people do it, it really adds up overall,” he says. Because of the high prices, energy saving is necessary.
Similar to showering, the heaters in the heating market can also be switched digitally, which means that higher temperatures can also be set in advance depending on the time. For electricity consumption, this is possible with a smart meter, an intelligent measuring system. In a previous study, Andor saw that with electricity meters reporting consumption every second, electricity consumption fell by 5 percent in six months. An app also showed households which household appliance consumed the most. However, this upgrade initially requires higher expenditures for the technology.
In addition to the direct consumption display, there is the option of informing households of the consumption somewhat later. In the shower experiment, which took place between October 2020 and June 2021 in the Ruhr area, another group received regular reports on their water consumption compared to other households: this reduced the average water consumption per shower by around 9 percent. The combination with a “smart shower head” increased the overall effect to 35 percent.
Andor says that households could also have been annoyed by the consumption displays, for example when the shower head flashes red again to indicate high consumption. According to the evaluation, however, this was not the case. The participants in the experiment rated the interventions mostly positively: They would even be willing to pay an average of around 10 euros a month for ongoing maintenance.