Home Finance Appealing to pockets of householders ‘best way to encourage a green life’

Appealing to pockets of householders ‘best way to encourage a green life’


Smart meters, providing real time information on energy use and cost, are more effective than climate change warnings to get people to live a greener life.

The findings come from research published by the University of Oxford and suggest appealing to people’s pockets rather than their conscience has better results.

The study was undertaken by Dr Ximeng Fang, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Saïd Business School, alongside researchers from a number of global institutions.

It found: “When applied alone, smart meters – which offer users real-time data on their energy usage – were effective in encouraging households to conserve energy when showering.”

By contrast: “Information on users’ environmental impact, delivered through a shower report offered via email was ineffective when used on its own.”

Dr Fang said: “People across many countries are increasingly concerned about environmental problems like climate change, and many say they are willing to act in more sustainable ways, including through behavioural changes in their personal lives.

“However, people’s actions are often not consistent with their stated intentions. One reason is that there are usually no direct feedback mechanisms on the environmental friendliness of our actions.

“In our research, we find that individuals are significantly more likely to engage in household energy and water conservation if they are constantly reminded through smart meters that provide real-time feedback.”

He said that simply giving people information on how much, for example, taking a hot shower contributes to an individual’s carbon footprint was not effective in changing behaviour.

“This suggests that abstract knowledge alone is not enough, we must also keep environmental concerns at the top of our minds when it really matters,” he said.

The team found that marrying smart meter information with messages about environmental benefits of restricting energy use was most effective.

The research involved a study on the showering habits of some 351 students and how they changed based on the information given.

Smart meter installation in the UK has become controversial amid complaints that as many as one in five have gone ‘dumb’. This could include failing to offer real-time information on household energy usage and cost.

New Government figures indicate that around 4million of the 35million smart meters installed in homes are not working in smart mode. As a result, householders may well be getting estimated bills that are inaccurate and unfair.

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