Multiplying energy-saving behaviour in cities through formal social groups

; ; ; ; (). Multiplying energy-saving behaviour in cities through formal social groups. In: Proceedings of ECEEE Summer Study 2015. (2133-2141). Toulon/Hyères: ECEEE Summer Study.

Cities are key agents of change in the ongoing energy transition in Switzerland. They promote technical efficiency measures and behavioural change to save energy – both by being role models and by addressing consumers directly. A crucial question is how cities can best elicit private consumers’ full potential of energy saving through adapting their habitual behaviour or routines, or in other words, how cities can promote energy sufficiency.
This paper presents first findings of a transdisciplinary project involving researchers from ZHAW, ETH Zurich and the three Swiss cities of Winterthur, Baden, and Zug. The project’s key idea is that cities can promote energy sufficiency of private consumers through middle-actors. In particular, it examines whether formal social groups (e.g., sports clubs) may function as powerful multipliers for energy-saving activities.
Thus, the aims of this paper are: i) to identify activities of the three analysed cities to promote private energy-saving, and ii) to discuss the role of formal social groups in cities when addressing private consumers.
We will present findings from three in-depth case studies in the cities of Winterthur, Baden, and Zug. For each city, we identify and structure currently applied energy-efficiency and sufficiency activities to promote energy-saving of private consumers (document analysis). Based on our findings we suggest strategies how the three analysed cities may best address private consumers to achieve energy-saving. Special attention will be given to formal social groups and their potential to motivate their members to save energy. This may concern activities that are related to the purpose of the group (e.g., members of a sports club use public transport instead of individual cars to go to away games) and potentially also members’ private activities (e.g., use of public transport instead of car for private leisure activities). As an outlook, we formulate first ideas for real-world experiments to systematically test the influence of formal social groups on individual energy-saving behaviour.