How do citizens perceive energy efficiency?

Energy Efficiency aims at reducing energy consumption without downgrading the quality of service delivered, thus reducing economic, ecological and social costs. The issue, which has become more prominent in recent years, remains subject to a change in citizen and consumer behavior. What is their perception on the issue?

There is a consensus among experts and political leaders on the importance of energy efficiency solutions to change the energy models of various countries. Many recent events have increased the prominence of energy efficiency, and challenged key technologies in the energy mix of certain countries. The Fukushima accident has led some countries, including Germany, to reassess their position on nuclear power. From May 2011, Germany has confirmed it would begin phasing out nuclear energy, together with announcing the goal of reducing the German people’s electricity consumption by 10% by 2020, notably through more efficient household appliances.

Besides, the energy sector has been faced with a series of major shocks leading to an increase in energy costs, as highlighted in the debates over shale gas or the British oil company BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Today, energy efficiency emerges as one of the solutions to rapidly face an increase in electricity prices in the short and medium term. Finally, energy poverty in certain part of the population, including in OECD countries such as France or the United Kingdom, raises some questions on decreasing energy consumption while warranting an equal level of comfort.

Results Rexel study energy efficiency Survey Harris

Despite being recognized as necessary by most experts and political leaders, energy efficiency solutions are only slowly implemented. According to the European Commission in March 2011, it will not be possible, according to current trends, to achieve Europe’s target of 20% energy savings by 2020. As a consequence, the European Union increased its efforts and a directive is currently being discussed. Announced within the framework of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP) adopted on 8 March 2011 by the European Commission, this directive attempts to turn the measures announced in the EEAP into legislative action, in order to allow the European Union to meet its energy efficiency objective of a 20% increase by 2020.

In a recent speech on U.S energy security, Barack Obama tackled the necessity to limit energy waste in the buildings sector, which represents 40% of energy consumed on U.S soil and several billion dollars a year in energy bills. The United States have launched the “Better buildings” initiative, which aims at improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings by 20% by 2020. This initiative comes on top of actions already implemented in the residential sector as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Nevertheless, the proposed solutions, based on taxes (carbon tax) and financial incentives, essentially aim at encouraging customers and citizens to change their behaviour and to invest in energy efficient solutions.

How do French, UK, German and American citizens see energy efficiency? How do they save energy in their own homes? What efforts are they ready to make to alter their behaviours? To answer these key questions, Rexel has commissioned Harris Interactive institute to ask a representative sample of the American, British, French, and German population.

The results of this first barometer show that a large majority consider energy efficiency as an important and engaging issue. Consumers consider themselves as the promoters and very first protagonists of electrical efficiency. Many of them have already adopted practical solutions and favor low-energy consumption appliances. The issue of energy efficiency appears as inseparable from financial considerations. Consumers indeed envisage investing to reduce their electricity spending on the condition that they can measure the return on investment.

Survey administered on line between 9 and 19 July 2011. Representative samples of 4,000 people from each of the 4 countries filled in the survey via the Harris Interactive access panel. Representative samples: 1,000 people in France, 1,000 people in Germany, 1,000 people in Great Britain and 1,000 people in the USA. Quotas and readjustments were applied to the following variables: sex, age and profession of the person interviewed.

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