Money Isn’t Everything?! Investigating Public Policies to Engage Energy Efficiency in Private Homes, An Empirical Analysis on Consumer Motives: An Abstract
In several countries, public policy measures aim to promote energy efficiency in private homes through energetic refurbishment (e.g., Dixon et al., 2010; Grubb, 2014). For private homeowners, they offer, e.g., affordable loans, credits, and subsidies to shorten the time frame for amortization. The current debate in the scientific literature criticizes that the supporting programs suggest that energetic refurbishment decisions are purely shaped by economic motives and rational thinking alone (Albrecht & Zundel, 2010; Novikova et al., 2011). As the anticipated positive effect of public policy measures lags behind all expectations and activation strategies seem to fail, other relevant determinants and motives in the decision-making should be considered. The aim of this study is to explore additional, possibly hidden motives shaping the decision of private homeowners to conduct energetic refurbishment to their single-family homes. Further, we try to make a contribution to existing theoretical frameworks to enlarge the present economically driven sight in the scientific debate.
For gaining a thorough understanding of both the decision-making process and the motives, we chose a qualitative-explorative research approach (Maxwell, 2005). We conducted 14 semi-standardized in-depth interviews with homeowners under the condition that they all executed energetic refurbishment measures to their single-family homes within the last years to draw conclusions on conscious and unconscious motives (Craig & Douglas, 2001). To control for external validity (Cook & Campbell, 1979), six semi-standardized in-depth interviews with experts for energetic refurbishments were conducted. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Subsequently, we used the software MAXQDA for qualitative content analysis and inductive coding (Kuckartz, 2009) to structure the high complexity and specificity of the individual statements.
Our results reveal two major categories of motives toward the decision of energetic measures: (1) rational and economic and (2) emotional and attitudinal motives. We found evidence that emotional- and attitude-based motives (e.g., quality of living, well-being) have to be considered as equally important as purely rational economic motives (e.g., financial savings). Moreover, owners of single-family homes do not align their decision on a single motive but more on a whole set of different motives that can be described as rational as well as emotional. From a theoretical point of view, our results are in line with the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975).
We draw several implications for future research and practitioners to focus more on noneconomic aspects in designing policy measures to sustainably activate homeowners for energy efficiency.