Understanding Energy Behavior

Before understanding what energy behavior is, let’s explain why it is essential to know the consumer’s behavior towards energy consumption. Nowadays, the news is packed with climate change, climate urgency, low carbon, or carbon capture keywords. If someone has been living under a rock will realize the significant difference in weather and food and the increase in energy prices such as electricity and gas or gasoline.

What is energy behavior? It is primarily a set of individual actions that influence energy consumption and production. Concerning the motivation behind the use or conservation of energy, it’s a topic sporadically addressed for more than a century and more related to the energy crisis, such as the steep increases in oil or gas in the 1970 and recently after the pandemic. Nevertheless, Sovacool did a meta-review of literature from 1999 to 2013, realizing it has focused on the supply side.

There is a high complexity of home energy consumption and conservation behavior. Principles from psychology and behavioral economist help explain, predict and modify such behavior. Consumers are far from the rational decision-makers that traditional economic models assume. There is often a wide gap between people’s values ​​, material interests, and actual behavior. Simply put, people often act in incompatible ways with their knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions and are incapable of maximizing their material interests. Many researchers believe that cognitive biases and experiments primarily drive consumer choices and behavior, while other “predictably irrational” show that trends drive them. People use mental shortcuts to remove complexity, dislike losses more than gains, prefer lower-value certainties over higher-value risks, evaluate events in relative rather than absolute terms, and greatly influence the people around them. Yet these cognitive biases and motivational factors are often overlooked by practitioners and policymakers who want to promote energy efficiency and conservation. It is essential to consider these facts when developing strategies to encourage renewable and sustainable energy use and motivate broader pro-environmental behavior to ensure cost-effectiveness and maximize return on investment. By understanding these predictable deviations from economically rational behavior, policymakers can better design interventions that will successfully bridge the gap between pro-environmental knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions and consumers’ daily energy-related behavior.

We need to introduce an international and multifaceted approach that includes engaging people in the energy system and changing the energy system to accommodate people’s needs and understanding better.


Elisha R. Frederiks, Karen Stenner, Elizabeth V. Hobman, Household energy use: Applying behavioural economics to understand consumer decision-making and behaviour, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 41, 2015,Pages 1385-1394,ISSN 1364-0321, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2014.09.026. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032114007990)

Marta Lopes, Carlos Henggeler Antunes, Kathryn B. Janda, Chapter 1 – Energy and behaviour: Challenges of a low-carbon future, Editor(s): Marta Lopes, Carlos Henggeler Antunes, Kathryn B. Janda, Energy and Behaviour, Academic Press, 2020, Pages 1-15,

ISBN 9780128185674, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-818567-4.00030-2. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128185674000302)

Benjamin K. Sovacool, What are we doing here? Analyzing fifteen years of energy scholarship and proposing a social science research agenda, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 1, 2014, Pages 1-29, ISSN 2214-6296, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2014.02.003. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629614000073)


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