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Infrastructure Resilience Conference 2018

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The Relevance of Social Comparisons For Resilient Behavior: Evidence From A Field Experiment In Singapore

In facing potential energy shortage or crisis, the resilience of energy systems rests not only on the supply side of energy, but also on the demand side. Energy demand and its growth rate should be curbed within the limit that natural resources and the environment can sustain. The financial burden as well as countries’ dependency on energy imports should not grow over time. Furthermore, individuals should be able to cope with problems like haze without increasing their energy demand. This paper analyses how social comparisons could curb private energy demand and hence make it more resilient.

In Singapore, a considerable share of private energy consumption goes to air-conditioning facilities, which cool houses and apartments. Hence, motivating individual energy-efficient behavior in air-conditioning use contributes to the reduction of overall energy demand. This study investigates whether and in which way individual households’ electricity consumption on air-conditioning depends on comparisons with other households’ air-conditioning consumption.

The study implements a field experiment for eight weeks among 400 students living in four-room apartments in the NUS UTown Residence. Depending on the assigned group, each of them receives a weekly email feedback with information on air-conditioning usage during the last week(s) in his/her room and in a specific other room. The “other room” is either very close to the individuals we study or farther away. The results suggest that information about one own usage reduces the air-con energy demand and that the effects are stronger in case of information about close reference points.

Given our results, it seems advisable to shape electricity bills by informing about the electricity consumption of “close” others such as neighbors, friends, or family. Based on such reference point related information it seems possible to increase private households’ resilience in energy demand.

Zhengyi Jiang
Future Resilient Systems, Singapore-ETH Center
Singapore

Marcel Brülisauer
Future Resilient Systems, Singapore-ETH Center
Singapore

Lorenz Götte
University of Bonn
Germany

Jan Schmitz
ETH Zurich
Switzerland

Renate Schubert
ETH Zurich
Switzerland

 

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