The 4 Stages of Consumers’ Readiness for Energy Savings

[Today’s guest post comes to us from Kate Cheney and Caroline Duvier, two fellows from CSE’s Human Factors research team. Kate and Caroline are actively researching the impact human psychology and behavior has on the adoption and efficiency of energy-saving technologies, and were kind enough to share some of their insights with us.]

When trying to encourage consumers to adopt more energy-efficient practices, it can be challenging to develop an initiative that reaches the target audience and catalyzes the desired behavioral changes—especially if not everyone in your target group may have the same level of knowledge or interest in the subject.

Studies have shown that people respond better to energy savings initiatives, or “interventions,” when these interventions are tailored to them. In order to reach people with a more tailored approach, we developed a scale that segments people into 4 stages of knowledge and interest levels, with corresponding types of interventions that may be appropriate. We’ve called this the Readiness for Energy Savings Scale (RESS).

The Four Stages of Readiness. Click for a larger view.

The Four Stages of Readiness. Click for a larger view.

We conducted a pilot study showing the successful segmentation of our participants into the 4 readiness stages, which we recently presented as a poster at the 2011 Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference.

These stages are: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation and action. Participants received a survey with 16 questions/statements (4 for each stage). The stage of readiness was calculated based on the answers participants gave to each question or statement.

I haven’t approached my energy company yet, but I am preparing to switch from oil to gas, or at least learn more about it. – Pilot study participant

We then performed cluster analyses, reliability tests and statistical significance tests to determine whether the stages are distinct and fall into the pre-determined stages. We were successful at calibrating the scale; statistical analyses showed each stage to be distinct.

Participants were also interviewed to gather insights into where they were within their stages of readiness. Here are sample responses for each stage:

Pre-contemplation: “I just pay my bill and don’t look at it otherwise.”
Contemplation: “I am somewhat informed about energy issues, but I would like to be more informed.”
Preparation: “I haven’t approached my energy company yet, but I am preparing to switch from oil to gas, or at least learn more about it.”
Action: “We changed all of our bulbs, have looked into getting a smart meter, and just put plastic on the windows the other night.”

As a next step, we will implement the RESS as part of a large-scale intervention, where we tailor energy saving interventions according to each stage.

While these results are preliminary, they suggest that knowing your target audience’s stage of readiness for energy savings can help your initiative to be more effective.

About author
I'm CSE's former Director of Marketing and Communications. During my time at the Center, I launched the Cleantech Notes blog.
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