Energy efficiency: inseparable from financial considerations

rexel international study energy efficiencyAccording to Rexel’s international survey on energy efficiency, the issues surrounding energy efficiency seem to be inseparable from the associated financial considerations: the main obstacles are associated with the cost of the installations whereas the main drivers are linked to the financial incentives available. And what respondents want most is information about the existing financial assistance and the economic efficiency (depreciation timeframe) of their investments. In consequence, the respondents state that they are prepared to make an effort to change their behavior but they are not willing to pay more for their energy. At the very least, it should be noted that they do not clearly appreciate the distinction between expense and investment.

The issues surrounding energy efficiency is inseparable from the associated financial considerations: the main obstacles are associated with the cost of the installations whereas the main drivers are linked to the financial incentives available and what respondents want most is information about the existing financial assistance and the economic efficiency (depreciation timeframe) of their investments

According to the respondents, the main obstacles stopping them from improving the energy efficiency of their homes are financial in nature: the excessively high cost of “energy efficient” products was cited by between 43% and 54% of respondents in the light of the low level of financial incentives available (45% in the United Kingdom, 42% in France, 30% in Germany and 29% in the United States). While the French (30%) and, to a lesser extent, the Germans (20%) point to a lack of will on the part of the public authorities, this is not the case in the English-speaking countries (8% in the United Kingdom and 5% in the United States) where respondents more frequently cite the lack of information about products and prices (38% of the British and 33% of Americans, compared to 26% in France and 22% in Germany). Both the French and Germans were also characterized by their belief that there are as yet no truly effective technological solutions (cited by 19% of respondents in France and 26% in Germany). The other obstacles were cited by less than two respondents in ten in all four countries: the difficulty in choosing a service provider (between 6 % and 14% depending on the country), the inability to identify a short-term benefit (between 11% and 13%), not knowing who to talk to (only 7% in Germany, 10% to 15% in the other countries), the feeling of powerlessness at the individual level (between 5% and 10%), habits that have become too difficult to change (17% in Germany but 8% or 9% in the other countries), or fear of a technology that is too complicated (6% or 7%).

At the same time, the main drivers that might motivate respondents to increase the efficiency of their energy consumption are also financial in nature: whatever the country, more than three respondents in ten considered financial subsidies in the form of tax credits (from 30% in Germany to 38% in France), the ability to easily measure the savings achieved (from 31% in Germany to 38% in the United Kingdom and United States), or other types of financial incentive (from 33% in France to 36% in the United Kingdom) to be a motivating factor.

In contrast, while the presence of attractive, easy-to-use technologies was cited as one of the main drivers by more than four out of every ten Germans (41%) and three out of every ten respondents in France (30%), this aspect was identified as a major incentive by only 16% of Americans and 18% of Britons. About a quarter of respondents cited financial incentives in the form of interest-free eco-loans (from 20% in France to 26% in the United Kingdom), whereas the other possible drivers were never mentioned by more than one respondent in ten: information campaigns relating to energy-saving habits (from 6% in Germany to 10% in France), a home visit by a specialist advisor (from 7% in Germany to 10% in the United States and the United Kingdom). Finally, the driver that was considered to be the least effective was stricter legislation (from 4% in the United States to 8% in France).

The subjects about which the respondents want to be informed are therefore, first and foremost, the financial incentives and existing legislation (from 23% in the United States to 35% in Germany), ahead of everyday actions that can be performed (16% in Germany, but between 24% and 27% in the other countries), the measurement of electricity consumption (28% in Germany but between 21% and 24% in the other countries) or even technological innovation (from 26% in Germany to 18% in the United Kingdom). Other issues lead to more divergent reactions depending on the surveyed country: while 20% of the French respondents wanted more information on the depreciation timeframe of the equipment, this level ran at only 3% to 6% in the other countries. With regard to the work that would need to be performed on their homes, the English-speaking respondents (31% of Britons and 32% of Americans) were significantly more interested in obtaining information than the French (16%) or Germans (10%). The respondents reported being less interested in information concerning the diagnostic tests to be performed (between 9% and 14%) or the interpretation of the labels present on household appliances (4% to 8%).

The respondents are prepared to make an effort to change their behavior but they are not willing to pay more for their energy

Finally, most of the respondents say that they are ready to make three types of changes to their behavior in order to improve their energy efficiency: first of all, they are prepared to spend more time by getting used to the small gestures that contribute to energy efficiency (from 75% in the United States to 82% in the United Kingdom); secondly, they are prepared to invest money in equipment which is more expensive at the moment of purchase but which pays for itself in the short or medium term (78% in the United States, between 69% and 72% in the other countries); thirdly, they are willing to forego certain “conveniences” – even if the Americans (52%) and, to a lesser extent, the French (61%) say that they are less prepared to do so than the British (71%) or the Germans (70%). In contrast, less than one third of respondents said that they were prepared to make budget-related efforts and pay more for their energy – which could contribute to the financing of a transition toward renewable energies: only 18% in France, and 31% to 34% in the other countries. It should be remembered that this survey activity was conducted in a context of considerable economic tension.

The great attention paid by the respondents to their personal finances causes them to waver constantly between the desire to spend less in the short term and their stated wish to invest in equipment that will reduce their energy bills in the medium or long term. The very notion of energy efficiency has not been integrated yet by the population, as many still fear that a change in their energy habits may either cause them discomfort or push their energy bills up. Therefore, the respondents still need to be persuaded that they can use of their energy more efficiently without having to make daily sacrifices.

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