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Not irrational but habitual: The importance of "behavioural lock-in" in energy consumption

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  • Maréchal, Kevin

Abstract

A substantial body of literature has shown that our behaviour is often guided by habits. The existence of habits -- not fully conscious forms of behaviour -- is important as it contradicts rational choice theory. Their presence thus calls for the setting of new instruments as they make it unlikely that consumers be capable of exercising control over their energy consumption in reaction to given incentives. This is further increased in the evolutionary perspective where the current carbon-based Socio-Technical System constrains and shapes consumers' choices through structural forces. Habits being potentially "counterintentional," they may explain the "efficiency paradox" in energy as well as the continued increase of energy consumption despite the rising environmental awareness among the population. Policies aiming at reducing energy consumption should thus specifically address the performance context of habits. For instance, targeting new residents has proven to be more effective given that their preceding habits have been disturbed. The results of our empirical analysis confirm this idea by showing how a change of context makes people more receptive to a proposed measure. Our analysis of the role played by habits also suggests that individuals do not consider the need to change existing habits as an obstacle even though this is contradicted implicitly in the answers they provided to open questions. This "unconsciousness" is one of the most delicate features of habits and it should thus be accounted for when designing measures. Given the other characteristics of habits, the joint use of feedbacks and commitment strategies appears promising.

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  • Maréchal, Kevin, 2010. "Not irrational but habitual: The importance of "behavioural lock-in" in energy consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(5), pages 1104-1114, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:5:p:1104-1114
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Want to help the environment? First fix your work-life balance
      by Andreas Chai, Senior Lecturer at Griffith University in The Conversation on 2015-05-26 07:00:06

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    Cited by:

    1. Brette, Olivier & Buhler, Thomas & Lazaric, Nathalie & Marechal, Kevin, 2014. "Reconsidering the nature and effects of habits in urban transportation behavior," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(03), pages 399-426, September.
    2. Qiu, Yueming & Colson, Gregory & Grebitus, Carola, 2014. "Risk preferences and purchase of energy-efficient technologies in the residential sector," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 216-229.
    3. Adnane Kendel & Nathalie Lazaric, 2015. "The diffusion of smart meters in France: A discussion of the empirical evidence and the implications for smart cities," Post-Print halshs-01246427, HAL.
    4. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/c6t1fl36hv9s7q89j8m3l01c9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Grazia Cecere & Nicoletta Corrocher & Cédric Gossart & Muge Ozman, 2014. "Lock-in and path dependence: an evolutionary approach to eco-innovations," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(5), pages 1037-1065, November.
    6. Lopes, M.A.R. & Antunes, C.H. & Martins, N., 2012. "Energy behaviours as promoters of energy efficiency: A 21st century review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 4095-4104.
    7. Longhi, Simonetta, 2014. "Residential energy use and the relevance of changes in household circumstances," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-22, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    8. Salies, Evens, 2013. "Real-time pricing when some consumers resist in saving electricity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 843-849.
    9. Kiran B Krishnamurthy, Chandra & Kriström, Bengt, 2013. "A cross-country analysis of residential electricity demand in 11 OECD-countries," CERE Working Papers 2013:5, CERE - the Center for Environmental and Resource Economics, revised 30 Jun 2014.
    10. Evens Salies, 2012. "Real-time pricing when consumers have saving costs," Working Papers hal-01070292, HAL.
    11. Safarzyńska, Karolina & Frenken, Koen & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2012. "Evolutionary theorizing and modeling of sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1011-1024.
    12. Sun, Chuanwang & Ouyang, Xiaoling, 2016. "Price and expenditure elasticities of residential energy demand during urbanization: An empirical analysis based on the household-level survey data in China," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 56-63.
    13. Chai, Andreas & Bradley, Graham & Lo, Alex & Reser, Joseph, 2015. "What time to adapt? The role of discretionary time in sustaining the climate change value–action gap," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 95-107.
    14. Litvine, Dorian & Gazull, Laurent & Dabat, Marie-Hélène, 2014. "Assessing the potential demand for biofuel by combining Economics and Psychology: A focus on proximity applied to Jatropha oil in Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 85-95.
    15. Wilson, Caroline, 2014. "Evaluating communication to optimise consumer-directed energy efficiency interventions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 300-310.
    16. Jalas, Mikko & Juntunen, Jouni K., 2015. "Energy intensive lifestyles: Time use, the activity patterns of consumers, and related energy demands in Finland," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 51-59.
    17. Christian Schubert & Andreas Chai, 2012. "Sustainable Consumption and Consumer Sovereignty," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-14, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    18. Longhi, Simonetta, 2015. "Residential energy expenditures and the relevance of changes in household circumstances," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 440-450.
    19. Krishnamurthy, Chandra Kiran B. & Kriström, Bengt, 2015. "A cross-country analysis of residential electricity demand in 11 OECD-countries," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 68-88.
    20. Martinsson, Johan & Lundqvist, Lennart J. & Sundström, Aksel, 2011. "Energy saving in Swedish households. The (relative) importance of environmental attitudes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5182-5191, September.
    21. Schleich, Joachim & Klobasa, Marian & Gölz, Sebastian & Brunner, Marc, 2013. "Effects of feedback on residential electricity demand—Findings from a field trial in Austria," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1097-1106.
    22. Hélène Joachain & Frédéric Klopfert, 2011. "Emerging trend of complementary currencies systems as policy instrument for environmental purposes: changes ahead?," Working Papers CEB 11-047, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    23. Kajsa Ellegård & Jenny Palm, 2015. "Who Is Behaving? Consequences for Energy Policy of Concept Confusion," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(8), pages 1-20, July.
    24. Bertha Maya Sopha, 2013. "Sustainable Paper Consumption: Exploring Behavioral Factors," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 1-14, November.

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