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Socio-economic research: non-energy impacts and behavioural insights on energy efficiency interventions


a) Modelling multiple non-energy impacts

Actions are required to explain the transition of energy efficiency from a ""hidden fuel"" to the ""first fuel"" and make the value of the externalities triggered by energy efficiency investments more visible across a variety of areas. The analysis should go beyond the traditional measures of reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; it should include positive and negative externalities relating to other policies such as public health, air quality, impact on ecosystems, etc.

Actions should build upon the existing methodological frameworks and the work already developed in this field in order to:

  • create econometric models and other instruments able to quantify and when possible monetise direct and indirect non-energy impacts (both positive and negative) of energy efficiency investments, taking into account all possible challenges (e.g. rebound effect, double counting, etc.);
  • provide a simplified and evidence-based tool which can help policy makers at local, regional, national and European level in defining optimised short-term cost-effective policies and measures as well as long-term strategies in the energy domain;
  • disseminate the concept to households, businesses and financing institutions in order to increase awareness, information level, and investments in energy efficiency improvements.

b) Behavioural insights for energy efficiency interventions

Actions should test energy efficiency behavioural change interventions through field trials informed by behavioural science. These trials should be aimed at selecting effective approaches to deliver the largest impact and should be targeted to specific energy behaviours.

Research may involve a mix of methodologies including different qualitative and quantitative research methods (e.g. RCTs[[Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) are an experimental technique that randomly assigns the participants under study to different conditions. In its simplest form, a group receiving the experimental treatment is compared with a control group receiving no treatment.]], A/B testing, before-and-after trials, observation, focus groups, surveys, exploitation of existing datasets, quasi-experiments, etc.).

Consortia should include, on the one hand, behavioural experts and, on the other, public authorities, DSOs and/or relevant civil society organizations (NGOs, associations, local energy communities, etc.) implementing energy efficiency related interventions.

Proposals should describe how the role and tasks of the various Consortia’s members will be coordinated. They should place emphasis on the European added-value of their outputs and the comparability of the results of different pilots in order to be relevant for European policy makers. The theoretical and empirical research chosen by the consortium should allow to draw conclusions regarding the best policy instruments (e.g. push and pull measures, price mechanisms, incentives, the leveraging on social norms, the provision of simplified real-time and possibly comparative information about one’s own consumption pattern, etc.), the relevant contextual aspects determining the efficiency of the intervention and, where possible, the long-term impacts of behaviourally informed policy interventions.

Proposals should build on relevant national and international projects and initiatives.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately[[The funding shall cover the expenses of the research project (design, roll-out, monitoring, data analysis, reporting, communication and dissemination) but by no means any substantial economic or in-kind incentive being tested as part of the intervention.]]. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

In the Energy Union Strategy, Energy Efficiency was recognised as a resource in its own right, which should be enabled to compete on equal terms with generation capacity and to have primary consideration across all policies[[Communication from the Commission A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy /* COM/2015/080 final]]. However, two additional aspects need to be taken into consideration in order to create effective future policy scenarios and allow for financial and political decision making, while prices of fossil fuels remain relatively low:

  • the real value beyond the fuel's cost and the (energy and non-energy) impacts of energy efficiency;
  • psychological and contextual features (such as consumers’ behavioural biases, superfluous complexity of alternative options or external barriers to energy efficiency) which can negatively impact the quality of consumers’ decision-making.

Depending on the scope addressed, proposals are expected to identify the impacts listed below using quantified indicators and targets, wherever possible:

  • Support policies, at all governance levels, aiming to foster investments in Energy Efficiency improvements and best practice development (scope a and b);
  • Increased awareness among households, businesses and financing institutions (scope a and b);
  • Number of public officers, private actors and other stakeholders involved and reached out to, number of peer-reviewed articles produced, or references to impact assessments, strategy papers or other policy documents (scope a and b);
  • Increase awareness on multiple benefits among policy makers in other-than-energy policy departments e.g. using a simplified language in order to allow their inclusion in future policy developments and monitoring, impact assessments and policy evaluations (scope a);
  • Number of analysed scenarios, energy efficiency measures and of non-energy benefits (scope a);
  • Number of interventions designed using behavioural levers[[See the glossary of Joana Sousa Lourenço, Emanuele Ciriolo, Sara Rafael Almeida, and Xavier Troussard; Behavioural insights applied to policy: European Report 2016. EUR 27726 EN; doi:10.2760/903938]] and relevant behavioural biases and elements identified (scope b);
  • Number of consumers adopting a more sustainable energy consumption behaviour (scope b);
  • Primary energy savings triggered by the project (in GWh/year – scope b);
  • Investments in sustainable energy triggered by the project (million Euro – scope b).

Additional positive effects can be quantified and reported when relevant and wherever possible:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gases emissions (in tCO2-eq/year) and/or air pollutants (in kg/year) triggered by the project (scope b).