Applying behavioural insights to energy policy

A toolkit for practitioners

This toolkit is intended for policymakers, civil servants, and professionals who design programmes to reduce emissions of citizens and businesses.

Energy programmes can fail because citizens and businesses might respond to them in unexpected ways. This toolkit will help you consider how people could respond to your programme and increase the likelihood that it will achieve its intended outcome.

To begin, please select the path that best matches your needs and answer the 3 questions that will follow. You will then be presented with personalised recommendations.

policy design

I am developing a new programme

You are designing a new programme to reduce emissions of citizens and businesses. Choosing this path will help you consider different types of interventions.

policy design

I am improving an existing programme

You are either implementing or refining a programme that already exists. Choosing this path will help you consider the underlying factors that might be affecting the programme’s success.

Programme Screening

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument

What area does your programme focus on? Please select one area of focus.

Buildings

You want to reduce carbon emissions produced by commercial or residential buildings. Examples include programmes that encourage house retrofits, installations of heat pumps and smart metres, and programmes that encourage off-peak energy consumption.

Transport

You want to reduce carbon emissions in transport. Examples include programmes that encourage individuals to walk and cycle more, use public transport, and switch from diesel to electric vehicles.

Industry

You want to reduce carbon emissions in industry and in businesses. Examples include programmes that encourage companies to implement energy-efficient manufacturing processes and motivate employees to adopt energy savings practices.

Programme Screening

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument

What is the desired outcome of your programme? Please select an outcome.

Increase uptake of a new technology

Typical outcomes include citizens installing solar panels or heat pumps, individuals retrofitting their homes, and manufacturers adopting more energy-efficient processes.

Change people’s energy consumption patterns

Typical outcomes include citizens turning down their thermostats, individuals shifting their appliance use to off-peak times, and employees adopting energy-efficient behaviours at the workplace.

Encourage a change in the mode of transportation

Typical outcomes include commuters shifting from car travel to public transport, holiday travellers switching from short-haul flights to trains, and employees switching from overseas business travel to virtual meetings.

Programme Screening

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument

What policy instruments are you using to achieve the desired outcome? Please select all that apply.

Enforce or ban behaviours

You are enforcing or banning behaviours via regulations, legislation or guidelines. Examples include banning diesel cars in city centres or enforcing minimum energy efficiency standards in certain industry sectors.

Incentivise or disincentivise behaviours

You are incentivising or disincentivising behaviours using financial, in-kind, or social incentives and disincentives. Examples include providing heat pump installation grants or making electric vehicles more socially visible through distinguishable number plates.

Provide services or infrastructure

You are providing services or infrastructure to support desired behaviours. Examples include building an online platform where citizens can contact trusted housing retrofit contractors, offering energy efficiency audits to businesses, or installing electric vehicle charging stations.

Provide information

You are providing information to encourage citizens or organisations to engage in desired behaviours. Examples include launching an information campaign about the benefits of installing solar panels or developing an energy-efficiency labelling scheme for household appliances.

Behavioural Factors

You have successfully completed the screening exercise. Your programme is outlined in the summary below.

A summary of your programme

  • Area of focus:
  • Outcome:
  • Instrument:

The success of your programme is likely to depend on several behavioural factors that we identified below.

You can access checklists that illustrate how to address these factors and increase the likelihood that your programme achieves its intended outcome.

Exisiting habits

  • Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to adopt the new technology.
  • Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to switch to a new mode of transport.
  • Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to change their energy consumption patterns.
  • Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to use the new service.
  • Citizens might revert back to their old habits once incentives are discontinued.
  • Citizens might not use the new mode of transport consistently over time.
  • Citizens might not use the new service consistently over time.

Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Negative social influence

  • Non-compliant citizens or businesses might discourage others from complying with the law or regulation.
  • Citizens or businesses might not adhere to the law or regulation because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.
  • Citizens or businesses might not act upon the communicated information because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.

Learn how to use positive social influence

Mental overload

  • Complex application processes to incentive or grant programmes can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
  • Complex signup or enrollment processes to services can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.

Learn how to simplify administrative processes

Low institutional trust

  • Citizens might distrust the institution that implemented the policy or programme.
  • Citizens might distrust the figure who communicates the information.
  • Citizens might distrust the institution that delivers the service.

Learn how to increase public acceptance

Low awareness

  • Citizens might pay no attention to the communicated information.
  • Citizens might not be aware of the programme's existence or eligibility criteria.
  • Citizens might not be aware of the law or regulation.
  • Citizens might not be aware of the existence of the service.
  • Citizens might not notice, understand or remember the information that is provided.

Learn how to communicate effectively

Low perceived risk

  • Citizens or businesses might believe that authorities do not enforce laws or regulations effectively. They might also think that the penalty for breaking the law might not be deterrent enough.

Learn how to increase compliance

Negative attitudes

  • Citizens might disagree with the communicated information.
  • Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new service.
  • Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new technology.
  • Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new mode of transport.

Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Limited capabilites

  • Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new technology.
  • Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to reduce their energy consumption.
  • Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new service.
  • Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to act upon the information.
  • Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to switch to a new mode of transport.

Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Motivational backlash

  • After incentivising some energy-efficient behaviours, citizens might stop engaging in other ones.
  • Financial incentives might dissuade citizens who do not wish to view themselves or be viewed by others as money-oriented.

Learn how to pull the right motivational levers

Attachment to past investments

  • Citizens or businesses might be reticent to switch to new technology if they invested significant resources in their current technology.
  • Citizens who have recently purchased a car might be reticent to switch to a new mode of transport.

Learn how to help citizens overcome attachment to past investments

Lack of attractiveness

  • Citizens might not to see any immediate benefits associated with using the service.
  • Citizens and businesses might not see the incentive as sufficiently attractive.
  • Information might not be sufficiently motivating for citizens or businesses to take action.

Learn how to increase attractiveness

Low commitment

  • Citizens might not have enough willpower to reduce their energy consumption.
  • Citizens and businesses might not use the new service because it requires too much effort.
  • Citizens or businesses might lack the necessary commitment to act upon information in an enduring way.

Learn how to encourage commitment

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument
  4. Options

Area of focus

There are a number of areas where demand-side energy interventions can have a significant impact. We have grouped these into three main areas: (1) Buildings, (2) Transport, and (3) Industry.

What area do you want your programme to focus on? Please select one area of focus.

Buildings

You want to reduce carbon emissions produced by commercial or residential buildings. Examples include programmes that encourage house retrofits, installations of heat pumps and smart metres, and programmes that encourage off-peak energy consumption.

Transport

You want to reduce carbon emissions in transport. Examples include programmes that encourage individuals to walk and cycle more, use public transport, and switch from diesel to electric vehicles.

Industry

You want to reduce carbon emissions in industry and in businesses. Examples include programmes that encourage companies to implement energy-efficient manufacturing processes and motivate employees to adopt energy savings practices.

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument
  4. Options

Programme outcome

What outcome(s) do you aim to achieve with your programme? Please select all that apply.

Increase uptake of a new technology

Typical outcomes include citizens installing solar panels or heat pumps, individuals retrofitting their homes, and manufacturers adopting more energy-efficient processes.

Change people’s energy consumption patterns

Typical outcomes include citizens turning down their thermostats, individuals shifting their appliance use to off-peak times, and employees adopting energy-efficient behaviours at the workplace.

Encourage a change in the mode of transportation

Typical outcomes include commuters shifting from car travel to public transport, holiday travellers switching from short-haul flights to trains, and employees switching from overseas business travel to virtual meetings.

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument
  4. Options

Programme instrument

What policy instruments are you considering using to achieve the desired outcomes(s)? Please select all that apply.

Enforce or ban behaviours

You are considering enforcing or banning behaviours via regulations, legislation, or guidelines. Examples include banning diesel cars in city centres or enforcing minimum energy efficiency standards in certain industry sectors.

Incentivise or disincentivise behaviours

You are considering incentivising or disincentivising behaviours using financial, in-kind, or social incentives and disincentives. Examples include providing heat pump installation grants or making electric vehicles more socially visible through distinguishable number plates.

Provide services or infrastructure

You are considering providing services or developing a new infrastructure to support desired behaviours. Examples include building an online platform where citizens can contact trusted housing retrofit contractors, offering energy efficiency audits to businesses, or installing electric vehicle charging stations.

Provide information

You are considerin providing information to citizens or organisations to encourage them to engage in desired behaviours. Examples include launching an information campaign about the benefits of installing solar panels or developing an energy-efficiency labelling scheme for household appliances.

Donation progress indicator

  1. current donation step: Area
  2. Outcome
  3. Instrument
  4. Options

Programme options

You have successfully completed the screening exercise.

Based on your choices, you have multiple options at your disposal. The success of each alternative will likely depend on the behavioural factors that we identified below.

Click the “+” button next to each policy option to learn more about the behavioural factors underlying its success. You can also access checklists that illustrate how to address these factors and make the programme more likely to achieve its intended outcomes.

2Ban or regulate old technologies to encourage citizens or businesses to adopt new and more energy-efficient ones

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Negative social influence
Non-compliant citizens or businesses might discourage others from complying with the law or regulation.
Learn how to use positive social influence

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new technology.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the institution that implemented the policy or programme.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Low perceived risk
Citizens or businesses might believe that authorities do not enforce laws or regulations effectively. They might also think that the penalty for breaking the law might not be deterrent enough.
Learn how to increase compliance

Negative attitudes
Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new technology.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

2Ban or regulate certain behaviours to encourage citizens or businesses to change their energy consumption patterns

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Low perceived risk
Citizens or businesses might believe that authorities do not enforce laws or regulations effectively. They might also think that the penalty for breaking the law might not be deterrent enough.
Learn how to increase compliance

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the law or regulation.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the institution that implemented the policy or programme.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Negative social influence
Citizens or businesses might not adhere to the law or regulation because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.
Learn how to use positive social influence

2Ban or regulate specific modes of transport to encourage citizens to switch to more sustainable ones

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Attachment to past investments
Citizens who have recently purchased a car might be reticent to switch to a new mode of transport.
Learn how to help citizens overcome attachment to past investments

Existing habits
Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to switch to a new mode of transport.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to switch to a new mode of transport.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the institution that implemented the policy or programme.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Negative attitudes
Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new mode of transport.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Low perceived risk
Citizens or businesses might believe that authorities do not enforce laws or regulations effectively. They might also think that the penalty for breaking the law might not be deterrent enough.
Learn how to increase compliance

2Incentivise citizens or businesses to adopt new and more energy-efficient technologies

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Mental overload
Complex application processes to incentive or grant programmes can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new technology.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the programme's existence or eligibility criteria.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens and businesses might not see the incentive as sufficiently attractive.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Attachment to past investments
Citizens or businesses might be reticent to switch to new technology if they invested significant resources in their current technology.
Learn how to help citizens overcome attachment to past investments

Existing habits
Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to adopt the new technology.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Negative attitudes
Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new technology.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Motivational backlash
After incentivising some energy-efficient behaviours, citizens might stop engaging in other ones.
Learn how to pull the right motivational levers

2Incentivise citizens or businesses to change their energy consumption patterns

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens and businesses might not see the incentive as sufficiently attractive.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Existing habits
Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to change their energy consumption patterns. Also, they might revert back to their old habits once incentives are discontinued.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to reduce their energy consumption.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Mental overload
Complex application processes to incentive or grant programmes can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

2Incentivise citizens or businesses to switch to more sustainable modes of transport

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Existing habits
Citizens might not use the new mode of transport consistently over time. Also, existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to switch to a new mode of transport.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens and businesses might not see the incentive as sufficiently attractive.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to switch to a new mode of transport.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the programme's existence or eligibility criteria.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Low commitment
Citizens might not have enough willpower to reduce their energy consumption.
Learn how to encourage commitment

Motivational backlash
Financial incentives might dissuade citizens who do not wish to view themselves or be viewed by others as money-oriented.
Learn how to pull the right motivational levers

Mental overload
Complex application processes to incentive or grant programmes can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

2Provide a service or restructure the environment to encourage citizens or businesses to adopt new and more energy-efficient technologies

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the existence of the service.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens might not to see any immediate benefits associated with using the service.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Low commitment
Citizens and businesses might not use the new service because it requires too much effort.
Learn how to encourage commitment

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the institution that delivers the service.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Mental overload
Complex signup or enrollment processes to services can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

2Provide a service or restructure the environment to encourage citizens or businesses to change their energy consumption patterns

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the existence of the service.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Low commitment
Citizens and businesses might not use the new service because it requires too much effort.
Learn how to encourage commitment

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens might not to see any immediate benefits associated with using the service.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Existing habits
Citizens might not use the new service consistently over time. Also, existing habits might make it difficult for them to change their energy consumption patterns.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the institution that delivers the service.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new service.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Mental overload
Complex signup or enrollment processes to services can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

2Provide a service or restructure the environment to encourage citizens to switch to more sustainable modes of transport

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Low commitment
Citizens and businesses might not use the new service because it requires too much effort.
Learn how to encourage commitment

Existing habits
Existing habits might make it difficult for citizens to use the new service.
Learn how to help citizens build and sustain new habits

Negative attitudes
Citizens might have negative attitudes towards the new service.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Low awareness
Citizens might not be aware of the existence of the service.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Lack of attractiveness
Citizens might not to see any immediate benefits associated with using the service.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to use the new service.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Mental overload
Complex signup or enrollment processes to services can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.
Learn how to simplify administrative processes

2Launch an information campaign that encourages citizens or businesses to adopt new and more energy-efficient technologies

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to act upon the information.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Lack of attractiveness
Information might not be sufficiently motivating for citizens or businesses to take action.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Negative social influence
Citizens or businesses might not act upon the communicated information because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.
Learn how to use positive social influence

Low awareness
Citizens might not notice, understand or remember the information that is provided. They might also pay no attention to the communicated information.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Negative attitudes
Citizens might disagree with the communicated information.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Low institutional trust
Citizens might distrust the figure who communicates the information.
Learn how to increase public acceptance

Low commitment
Citizens or businesses might lack the necessary commitment to act upon information in an enduring way.
Learn how to encourage commitment

2Launch an information campaign that encourages citizens or businesses to change their energy consumption patterns

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Lack of attractiveness
Information might not be sufficiently motivating for citizens or businesses to take action.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to act upon the information.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Negative social influence
Citizens or businesses might not act upon the communicated information because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.
Learn how to use positive social influence

Low awareness
Citizens might not notice, understand or remember the information that is provided. They might also pay no attention to the communicated information.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Negative attitudes
Citizens might disagree with the communicated information.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Low commitment
Citizens or businesses might lack the necessary commitment to act upon information in an enduring way.
Learn how to encourage commitment

2Launch an information campaign that encourages citizens or businesses to switch to more sustainable modes of transport

Behavioural factors might affect this programme option:

Lack of attractiveness
Information might not be sufficiently motivating for citizens or businesses to take action.
Learn how to increase attractiveness

Limited capabilites
Citizens might lack the knowledge, skill, or ability to act upon the information.
Learn how to address knowledge and ability gaps

Low awareness
Citizens might not notice, understand or remember the information that is provided.
Learn how to communicate effectively

Negative attitudes
Citizens might disagree with the communicated information.
Learn how to foster positive attitudes towards the policy

Negative social influence
Citizens or businesses might not act upon the communicated information because they incorrectly believe that others do not do so either.
Learn how to use positive social influence

Low commitment
Citizens or businesses might lack the necessary commitment to act upon information in an enduring way.
Learn how to encourage commitment