Ariadne Analysis

Motivating people to save energy: 100 studies from 25 countries show how it can be done


From information campaigns to monetary incentives, from voluntary commitments to games, 5-6 percent of household energy consumption can be reduced in the short and medium term through behavioural interventions, helping to mitigate the energy crisis. This is the conclusion reached by a new analysis for which Ariadne researchers from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the IKEM reviewed more than 100 studies from over 25 countries. The paper discusses current scientific findings, analyses the legal framework as well as the status of implementation in Germany and identifies appropriate regulatory options.

‘The energy demand of buildings is responsible for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. In the long run, alternative energy, and heat supplies as well as substantial building renovations are necessary for climate protection. But what can be done today? Our analysis examines which regulatory, information-based, and monetary measures and incentives exist and how they can be used to save emissions in the building sector,’ said Dr. Greta Reeh, head of the IKEM Research Academy and co-author of the Ariadne study.

Since the oil price shock in the 1970s, the scientific community has examined energy-saving behaviour in many studies and experiments. The common goal of the research efforts has been to get a better understanding of what motivates people to use less electricity and heat at home. In the current energy crisis, this experience can contribute to the development of measures that motivate households to save energy.

Dr. Reeh added: ‘Our study shows that monetary incentives – for example in the form of subsidy programs for modern heating systems – have the greatest effect on energy reduction. However, they must be accompanied by better access to information. Only those who understand their own energy consumption in detail can save energy efficiently.’

The IKEM researchers were particularly concerned with the legal framework for energy saving. Dr. Reeh explained, ‘We found that many energy efficiency and energy saving measures are already anchored in German legislation, but that many challenges exist in their practical implementation. For example, the development of a nationwide smart metering infrastructure in Germany is stagnating. However, such a system could help make energy consumption transparent and leverage potential savings.’


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Dennis Nill
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IKEM – Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility e.V.