Planet or pocketbook? Environmental motives complement financial motives for energy efficiency across the political spectrum in the United States

Hale A. Forster, Howard Kunreuther, Elke U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While policies to encourage low-cost energy saving behaviors have increasingly incorporated nonfinancial behavioral science interventions to motivate behavioral change, policies to encourage large structural energy efficiency upgrades have been slow to adopt such tools to motivate consumers, relying instead on economic incentives to reduce upfront cost and targeting financial and comfort motivations. This research examines whether adding an emphasis on environmental benefits can increase interest in these upgrades and explores whether political ideology moderates the effectiveness of different environmental benefits frames. In Study 1, we explore how homeowners rate the importance of financial and nonfinancial decision factors of weatherization, a large energy efficiency upgrade, including the financial, informational, environmental, material, and social benefits and costs. We find that social factors and environmental benefits explain the most variance of any decision factor in reported likelihood to upgrade. In Study 2, we examine whether adding a description of environmental benefits of upgrades to their financial benefits can increase upgrade likelihood across political ideologies. We find that adding environmental benefits framed as mitigation of climate change increases liberals’ likelihood to upgrade but has no effect on conservatives; however, adding benefits framed as an increase in environmental stewardship and energy independence increases both liberals and conservatives’ likelihood to upgrade. This research demonstrates that, contrary to existing practice, adding environmental messages after characterizing financial benefits may increase investment likelihood for energy efficiency upgrades across the political spectrum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101938
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume74
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Energy behavior
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental benefits
  • Financial benefits
  • Political ideology

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