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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Two basic strategies can be employed to encourage pro-environmental actions. First, structural strategies that aim to change the cost and benefits of pro-environmental actions. Second, psychological strategies can be implemented that aim to change people’s perceptions and motivations. Pro-environmental behaviour is sometimes somewhat costly or effortful. Therefore, many assume that external incentives are needed to motivate people to engage in such behaviour. Such as, subsidising the installation of solar panels, introducing a carbon tax, or prohibiting energy intensive products by law. Such incentives are indeed needed when people face important barriers to pro-environmental actions. For example, when prices of pro-environmental actions are very high. However, extrinsic incentives run the risk of crowding out intrinsic motivation.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds In such cases, people no longer act pro-environmentally because they think it is the right thing to do, but only because it is the most attractive and profitable option. This may inhibit them to engage in other pro-environmental behaviours that have no clear personal benefits. And hence, inhibit so-called positive spillover effects. For example, a study showed that people were less likely to recycle after they focused on economic reasons, rather than environmental reasons for cost sharing. Structural strategies made does not lead to durable wide scale changes in behaviour. Psychological strategies aim to target and enhance people’s motivation to engage in pro-environmental actions. And to increase their knowledge and perceived abilities to do so, without actually changing the cost and benefits of behaviour.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds For example, information can be provided about the environmental impact of one’s behaviour, and ways to reduce energy consumption. Such information strategies are more effective when they are tailored to the needs and characteristics of the specific groups and individuals being targeted. Additionally, feedback can be provided about one’s energy use or energy savings. This can motivate people to engage in sustainable energy behaviour, particularly when feedback is provided frequently and on a detailed level, so that people can relate the feedback to their own behaviour. Next to feedback on one’s own performance, people can receive information about the performance of others, or the group they belong to.

Skip to 2 minutes and 57 seconds This can motivate them to follow the good example of others, but can also prove counter-effective when they realise they actually outperform others. Social inference strategies appear to be effective to promote sustainable energy behaviour. Examples are block leader approaches, where local volunteers help to deliver the intervention. Also, commitment strategies were effective, where people make a promise to engage in sustainable energy behaviour. Psychological strategies can target people’s intrinsic motivation to engage in pro-environmental behaviour. This may result in durable, long-term changes in behaviour, and make it likely that people engage in pro-environmental behaviour, even though this may be somewhat costly. Because doing good makes them feel good.

Strategies to promote sustainable energy choices

In this video, psychological strategies used to facilitate a sustainable energy transition are discussed. These include antecedent and consequent strategies, such as incentives, laws etc.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen