By Mari Martiskainen
I was recently invited to give a talk at the Citenel Seenel conference hosted by the Brazilian Power Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) on 17-19th August in Sauipe, Bahia. The biannual Innovation and Energy Efficiency Seminar (VIII Citenel and IV Seenel) brings together industry, academia and government to discuss results and impacts of research and experience on Brazil’s R&D and Energy Efficiency Programme.
My talk was on the 2nd day of the conference, in a panel which focused on consumer behaviour and experiences from countries outside Brazil. While I focused on the UK experience, outlining recent policy changes such as the removal of the Green Deal and Zero Carbon Homes requirements, I also highlighted that throughout the years the UK has had a mix of policies which have addressed household energy efficiency including regulation, subsidies, voluntary agreements and supplier obligations. What we still seem to lack though, is evidence of long-term results on if and how behaviour change occurs, and if it does, how long it can be sustained. Consumer behaviour on energy consumption is a complex area and companies such as Opower are developing ways to profile customer data and visualise consumption to the end-user, as outlined in his presentation by Angel Sustaeta, Managing Director for Opower Latin America.
Howard Geller, founder and Executive Director of Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) in Boulder, Colorado, US, gave an excellent overview of utility energy efficiency programmes in the US. In the US, electric utility policy is adopted at the state level and each state also has a regulatory agency that regulates private utilities. Measures such as rebates on energy efficiency products have been especially popular.
Aurelia Figueroa from the German Development Institute (DIE), meanwhile, provided a case study of industrial energy efficiency programmes in South Africa, showing that behavioural change is not only relevant in the household sector but also plays a key part in industry, especially when new programmes are being introduced.
During the Q&A session it became clear that our audience was keen to take on board many of the issues that we highlighted. One key question focused around knowledge on consumer behaviour and how to create baseline consumer data information in a country where collection of personal energy consumption data is currently not possible due to legislation. As the average household energy consumption in Brazil is 180 kilowatt hours per month, sufficient data is vital in order to identify high energy users. There were also questions on whether smarter appliances could also create smarter consumers, an area which provides both opportunities and challenges given the staying power of established habits.
Consumer behaviour is affected by various factors including cultural and social norms and there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to it. However, events such as the Citenel Seenel provide excellent opportunities for identifying aspects of what policies and measures have been tested, what has worked or not worked, and what context-free learning can be taken back home.