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12 August 2019

Researchers from QUT have teamed up with Energy Consumers Australia to investigate approaches that encourage positive energy use behaviour change.

Lead researchers Professor Uwe Dulleck and Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett of QUT’s Centre for Behavioural Economics, Society and Technology (BEST) say there is consistent pressure on consumers generated by an increase in electricity prices which needs to be addressed in order to achieve sustainable electricity management.

The study looked at decisions of 182 electricity customers/bill payers made in a simulated environment. We found that if consumers are aware their behaviour could risk a black out, as happened in South Australia in 2016, and this risk is clearly communicated, then behaviour change can be best achieved by positive measures (rewards/hugs and nudges).

One key challenge that affects both demand (those using electricity such as electricity consumers) and supply (those supplying the electricity, such as generators, distributors and retailers) are ‘event days’ when the level of demand exceeds the ability to supply explained Professor Russell-Bennett.

“We wanted to understand which of the four options (hug, nudge, shove, or smack) encouraged electricity consumers to respond positively to energy use behaviour change, as well as timing of delivery.

“If the benefit for others is lower cost, negative interventions (regulations or penalty rates) are likely to be more successful, particularly in the short term.

“We were also interested in testing some relevant individual differences like demographics such as age, gender, education, income and household make-up, as well as participatory citizenship, honesty and self-efficacy.”

Professors Dulleck and Russell-Bennett are joined by a team of research and industry partners including QUT colleagues Dr Kate Letheren, Dr Stephen Whyte and Mr Martin Brumpton who undertake the research as part of BEST Centre and The Service Thinking for Social Problems Research Group, and Energy Consumers Australia.

This research follows on from an earlier study which examined four options for change (hug, smack, nudge, shove) and the effect they were able to elicit on young consumers during non-event usage days.

According to Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, the research is timely given the current focus on pricing signals as a way to manage peak demand, and it will “place energy consumers in the driver’s seat for influencing policy about how changing electricity pricing signals are implemented. That’s a win for consumers.

We hope the insights from findings will have a positive impact on policy development and help inform and develop strategies to increase the pro-social behaviour of electricity consumers voluntarily reducing electricity consumption during peak time,” Professor Russell-Bennett said.

The research is funded by Energy Consumers Australia and recently won a number of Best Research Paper Awards at the 2019 World Social Marketing Conference, and selected as one of only ten papers invited to a special issue from the QUIS services marketing conference in Karlstad Sweden.

For more information contact:

Contact Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett with rebekah.bennett@qut.edu.au
Visit the Centre for Behavioural Economics, Society and Technology's website

Research team (L to R): Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Dr Kate Letheren, Dr Stephen Whyte, Professor Uwe Dulleck and Martin Brumpton.

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