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Infrastructure Resilience Conference 2018

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Air Pollution and Air Conditioning: Immediate and Lasting Behavioural Changes Due to Haze in Singapore

Air pollution in Singapore reaches severely unhealthy peak levels during the haze season, when smoke from forest clearing in neighboring countries sweeps across the city. This recurring critical event poses not only a health threat but also has far reaching economic and social consequences, including the impact of haze on household electricity consumption. During the haze season, residents tend to spend more time indoors, often using their air-conditioning system to purify the air – two behaviors resulting in an increase in electricity demand.

Other scholars have found evidence of a causal relation between higher levels of air pollution and an increase in household electricity consumption in Singapore (Salvo, Alberto (2017). Slow Household Use of Air Conditioning by Abating Local Air Pollution, SIG Talk in Applied Economics, NUS). Additionally, these behavioral changes might result in the formation of negative habits that sustain beyond the end of the crisis. Our goal is two-fold: Firstly, we will quantify the effect of haze events on air-conditioning usage and secondly, we will evaluate if such effect disappears after the crisis or if there is evidence of unsustainable habit formation.

We investigate the correlation between the level of air pollution and the use of air-conditioning in student dorms on the NUS campus. The (almost) daily air-conditioning consumption data covers >1500 occupants over 6 months including a major haze event in September 2015. First linear regression results show a significant effect of air pollution on daily air-conditioning usage, even after controlling for climate influences. This study will show how people adapt their air-conditioning usage in the short and medium term, forming the basis to develop strategies to promote their behavioural resilience in such recurring crises.

Marcel Bruelisauer

Martina Cecchini


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