Many energy-reducing measures focus on the financial side for customers to change behavior — but it’s time to rethink this.
Often, however, financial incentives are irrelevant or difficult to implement — think for instance of energy use at work (where the boss pays the bill), in hotels (where energy is included in the room price) and in rental homes with all-inclusive energy, gas and water use.
Situations like this require a different approach. In order to take measures that successfully achieve energy saving in these situations, more knowledge is needed of non-financial incentives that can have a positive effect on energy saving. This (research) project is directed at exploring these.
What do we study?
The project focuses specifically on two types of situations in which users do not themselves pay the energy bill: students in all-inclusive housing and hotel guests.
We see interventions directed at energy conservation not only as a way to save costs, but also as a way to reduce carbon emissions and to contribute to the development of our guests; the students and hotel guests staying at TSH.
Together with Bectro’s — our partner in this Living Lab — we are interested in exploring how users interact with energy saving technology in practice: how do residents and hotel guests respond to technological interventions to save energy, which peak values for electricity and warm water can be expected when, how can these peaks be managed better and so on.
We’re using ‘field experiments’ in which the students staying in The Student Hotel for a semester, as well as ‘regular’ hotel guests, undergo various interventions. We’re able to monitor the exact time and amount of energy use for each participant. Moreover, this is done over the course of long periods of time (5-12 months), and energy consumption data is linked to extensive questionnaires that participants are asked to complete, before and after the experiments.
This generates improved insights on the effects of social incentives like public praise, commitment, gift-giving and competition; the effects of improved knowledge about environmental issues and specific energy saving behaviors; the effects of the environmental attitude of social groups; and the effect of technological interventions for energy conservation.
What makes this project unique?
This project offers a unique opportunity to collect a great amount of information about energy and water use while testing the effects of interventions with a very precise view on their effectiveness.
Moreover, the effectiveness of interventions on the long term can be measured. On the other hand, every semester will bring new groups of residents without prior knowledge of previous research that can participate in new experiments.
Throughout the year, and especially during summer holidays, ‘regular’ hotel guests will also stay in The Student Hotel — and these short-term guests will also be included in our studies.
To our knowledge, there’s no ‘hotel as a social research lab’ anywhere else in the world, and we’re excited to be the first to lead the way in creating a better understanding of energy use informed by real-world data.