ENERGY TRANSITION: HOW CAN YOU CONTRIBUTE?

The report “Energy Transition: How Can You Contribute?” is a call for citizen action and studies the factors that can effectuate real change in energy consumers’ contribution to the energy transition. In this Urban Insight report, Sweco experts team up with scientists to reveal how you can support the energy transition in your daily life; our own behaviour is a key component in the practical implementation of change.

Do you know how to reduce your climate footprint? What to upgrade in your home? If your local energy is green?

Sweco experts asked thousands of people in nine European countries about ways in which their households are promoting the energy transition, and the respondents, more than 2 000 citizens`, gave us insight into the current situation and factors that can enable the energy transition.

Collectively, as members of households we have a large impact. There are lots of energy efficient solutions for households. One thing that you can do is to lower the temperature. Turning the thermostat down 1°C will save around 13% of space heating energy. Do you heat your home during office hours when no one is home? You might want to change that, too. Lowering the temperature during office hours from 20°C to 16°C can save 10%, depending on your house’s characteristics and geographic location.

Another choice you can make is to purchase your energy from a green energy supplier. It takes just a few clicks to switch to renewable sources. You contribute by turning your lights on with energy generated by wind, solar, hydropower and/or biomass.

To succeed in the energy transition, we need to adapt now. But adaptation requires a shift in behaviour. Although there is a definite sense of urgency to be part of the energy transition, each one of us perceives the energy transition in a different way.

The result in Sweco’s study showed that age matter when it comes to willingness to participate in the energy transition.

Awareness program in education contributes to energy-related behavioural change

Energy-related behavioural change among young groups can impact other population groups. Earlier studies revealed energy reductions of 5 to 20 per cent in families based on the children’s heightened energy awareness following a school programme.

SMALL CHANGES IN BEHAVIOUR CAN HAVE A GREAT IMPACT ON SAVINGS

Heating consumes the most energy in our homes. In the EU roughly 27% of final energy consumption derives from households. At home we use energy primarily for heating, which represents approximately two-thirds of our final energy consumption. When we add time spent showering and bathing, heating accounts for 80% of our final energy consumption.

It is therefore interesting to find that the energy savings measure people most commonly identify with is replacing lightbulbs with LEDs, although lighting accounts for less than 20% of final energy consumption. More people are switching to LEDs than to a smart thermostat, which would make a much greater difference. Of course, all measures make a difference.

If you want to go big, think bigger. Household heating is likely to remain the “elephant in the room” that demands attention.

But there are more factors at play than just knowing what to do. One of the main conclusions of our survey is that financial considerations are the most important driver for determining whether to engage in the energy transition. On one hand, over one-third of respondents stated that financial costs prevented them from upgrading their homes on the energy transition level.

On the other hand, nearly half of respondents (47%) indicated that cost savings motivated them to upgrade their homes, followed by reducing emissions (33%). Financially smart solutions could therefore enable the energy transition, along with information and a heightened awareness of actual costs and cost savings.

DIFFERENCES ACROSS BORDERS

European countries have built up completely different energy systems over the years based on geographic location. Each country has a unique energy context.

This means that citizens in each country need to inform themselves about choices that work within their energy context. That also puts a pressure on governments, businesses and academic institutions to supply the information needed to make well-informed choices.

Conclusions and recommendations

European households can collectively have a huge impact on the transition to a more sustainable energy system. People not only support the energy transition; they also feel that others expect them to engage in it. Households have the critical mass required to impel a change in practices towards a more sustainable future.

Our survey shows that all respondents had a willingness to contribute to the energy transition, though to differing degrees. We can all contribute by making choices in our day-to-day lives within our spheres of influence.

Collectively, we create large impact – particularly in our households, where many lifestyle measures start.

The factor preventing households from making the change is the same that stimulates others to do so: assumptions about financial costs. And, due to a combination of variables, our actions differ from person to person. Awareness of the effects of various measures also plays a role. But changing behaviour in the ways described above doesn’t have to cost a cent.

Household energy consumption distribution in Denmark. Similar energy consumption distributions can be seen in other European countries.

Choose high impact measures

Heating takes the gold medal when it comes to household energy consumption. So saving on heating is where many high impact measures start. You can go a long way by combining your behaviour with technical measures that reduce demand or applications that use heat from renewable sources. Insulate, invest in a heat pump and double or triple glazing. Or electrify your own local energy system with solar panels.

Country options: Be aware of your local energy context

Make sure you are well informed about options in your own country. Choose those measures that work best within your context to achieve the greatest possible impact. Inform yourself about the technical measures available and be aware of loans or subsidies for homeowners.

About the authors

Lisette van der Kolk is an urban planner working at the intersection of people, technology and processes within sustainable urban areas. With her architectural and planning background, she is ideally suited to spatial strategic projects that combine multiple disci- plines and themes, such as healthy and safe environ- ment, energy transition, and climate adaptation. She works on projects that take place in the context of future cities and societies.

Robin van der Sande holds a Bachelor’s degree in the Built Environment and a Master’s degree in Building Physics & Services, and is part of the Energy Strategy & Finance team. He and his team specialise in guiding public and private parties in the energy transition by ensuring well-performing assets and combining technical and financial knowledge with stakeholder management.

Maarten Grotholt holds degrees in Urban Planning (BSc) and Environmental Governance (MSc) and spe- cialises in the governance of climate-related topics in cities. This entails drafting policy, executing strat- egies and setting vision for more sustainable urban development. Consideration of socio-institutional contexts is an important element in his work.

Fieke van Leest is Urban Insight project leader in the Netherlands. For the past 12 years she has worked as a Sustainable Cities programme manager for governments in the Netherlands. In these projects, she translates sustainability objectives into practical solutions.

Other contributing experts:
Catrin Finkenauer, Professor at the University of Utrecht and Scientific Director of Dynamics of Youth and Sigurd Bunk Lauritsen, Strategic consultant, Sweco Denmark