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The International Energy Agency Demand Side Management (IEA DSM) Implementing Agreement Task 24 to take a closer look at the human component of energy use.

Governments around the world struggle with achieving their targets (often set in legislation) to develop a more sustainable energy system. There is now a growing international realisation that technological development alone will be insufficient to meet those targets.

Energy efficiency and energy conservation have gained renewed interest due to climate convention commitments and the rising concerns about prices and security of supply of imported fuels. Energy efficiency and conservation are the cheapest, fastest and most feasible way to meet climate change mitigation targets, as well as many other environmental objectives. Concern for security of supply and ʻpeak oilʼ and other resource shortages have added to the urgency for energy conservation.

Successful implementation of energy efficiency and DSM can mean: financial savings, job creation, improved load management, reduced need for new generation, security of supply, reduced emissions, reduced pollution, greener products and services, more affordable energy, reduced fuel poverty, increased warmth and comfort, improved health and wellbeing, better social cohesion, individual empowerment, community engagement, corporate responsibility and good PR, changing the social norm not to needlessly waste energy and resources.

The IEA estimates in its latest World Energy Outlook that 2/3 of the energy efficiency potential in industry and buildings will remain untapped until 2035. Skip Laitner, previously of ACEEE, calculated that 86% of the US energy system is inefficient. Even though energy efficiency and DSM make so much sense, there is what is called the “energy efficiency gap”, i.e. the difference between the actual energy efficiency and the higher level of efficiency that would still be cost-effective and relatively easy to implement.

A focus on better understanding what drives behaviour change could close this gap. It is estimated that energy-related behaviour change, facilitated and/or induced by Demand Side Management (DSM) programmes (e.g. feedback strategies that are improved to go beyond the traditional metering and billing) can trigger up to 20% electricity savings, and that 30% of energy efficiency potential is in the so-called 'behavioural wedge'.

Currently, DSM policymakers and other relevant stakeholders fund and/or support DSM programmes on a rather ad-hoc basis because they lack these means of assessing their impact on contributing towards a more sustainable energy system. A review of state of the art research findings and current best practice could identify what roles and actions policymakers, investors and other relevant stakeholders might play to make behaviour change for DSM successful in tapping into the vast and cost-effective potential for energy efficiency and conservation.

We believe that the current energy efficiency gap (or ʻmarket failureʼ of energy efficiency) results from:

  • a limited or over-simplistic understanding of energy end users acting as economically rational individuals;
  • the insufficient sharing of results within the research community and across scientific and national borders;
  • the limited transfer of best practice and good research to the policy domain and informing real-life interventions;
  • the lack of monitoring and evaluation tools that are meaningful to a variety of stakeholders (e.g. policymakers and investors);
  • a lack of clear recommendations and guidelines concerning the role and actions for different stakeholders, and the specific contexts they operate in; and
  • limited information tailored specifically to countriesʼ needs.


In the end, everyone loses out:

  • behaviour change researchers who are chronically under-funded and whose findings do not inform real-life intervention design;
  • policymakers and DSM implementers as they do not benefit from applying best practice research theory into practical applications;
  • research funders as they lack clear evaluation of successful outcomes to fund practical behaviour change research efforts and thus continue relying on the ʻeasierʼ, technological fixes to our energy problems; and
  • the energy end users and society as a whole as wasteful behaviours are continued, thus not benefitting from the greater energy security, energy affordability and social and environmental outcomes that come with successful DSM projects.


A critical factor in all this, including the DSM work, is to draw as wide a research scope as is manageable. If the wider dependencies are not taken into consideration, the options and recommendations will be flawed and are unlikely to gain lasting traction. Following from these challenges, this new task of the IEA DSM Implementing Agreement is aimed at developing solutions that clearly link behaviour change research theory with successful policy implementation and outcome evaluation.

Objectives of Task 24

The main objective of this project is to create a global expert network and design a framework to allow policymakers, funders of DSM programmes, researchers and DSM implementers to:

  • Create and enable an international expert network interacting with countriesʼ expert networks
  • Provide a helicopter overview of behaviour change models, frameworks, disciplines, contexts, monitoring and evaluation metrics
  • Provide detailed assessments of successful applications focussing on participating/sponsoring countriesʼ needs (smart meters, SMEs, transport, building retrofits)
  • Create an internationally validated monitoring and evaluation template
  • Break down silos and enable mutual learning on how to turn good theory into best practice


Subtasks

Task 24 was initiated in January 2012 (official start July 2012) and is currently financially supported by 9 countries (Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Austria and (soon) South Africa). It also has received strong in-kind (expert) support from the UK, Spain, Portugal, UAE, France, Australia, Canada and the US. Over 250 behaviour change and DSM experts from over 20 countries are involved to greater or lesser extent in various aspects of this Task and over 200 are participating in the invite-only Task 24 Expert Platform (www.ieadsmtask24.ning.com), which is Subtask 5. Ten highly successful expert workshops have been held to date, several webinars between the national experts have also taken place and there are over 110 videos and presentations of these events on the Expert Platform, including a professional 25 min film on the Oxford workshop, which was the largest to date.

40 case study templates have so far been collected for Subtask 1 from 14 countries. Some of these case studies will be studied in detail for Subtask 2, with interviews already conducted in CH, NL, NZ, NO, SE, AT. We are also working on the all-important question of how to best evaluate successful long-term behaviour change outcomes from the perspective of the 'Behaviour Changers' (industry, government, research, community, intermediaries) who are our target audience. We are hoping these so-called ‘Behaviour Changers’) will benefit from the recommendations from Subtask 4.