As energy-efficient technologies proliferate, so do opportunities for consumers to corral the financial costs and reduce the environmental footprint incurred by their energy use. Governments and other organizations worldwide have implemented policies to encourage the adoption of these technologies.
But the combined force of economic, environmental and programmatic incentives has not yet resulted in a level of investment in energy efficiency that many studies suggest would be desirable. The apparent disparity between the predicted and observed adoption of efficient technologies and behaviors is known as the “energy efficiency gap,” and Duke researchers are working to understand the phenomenon.
A joint project led by the Energy Initiative and the Harvard Environmental Economics Program is a key component of this effort. A comprehensive paper from the project Assessing the Energy Efficiency Gap: Research and Practice seeks to identify the market forces, behaviors and assumptions that contribute to the gap, and to inform future research and policy that will help to close it. Energy Initiative founding Director Richard Newell co-directs the project, which complements his own research on the effectiveness of energy efficiency labeling in guiding household appliance choices.
A number of other Duke faculty and researchers are exploring energy behavior and decision-making from a variety of disciplinary angles:
- Public policy professor Steven Sexton finds that automatic bill payment can result in increased electricity consumption, while his colleague Matthew Harding argues that energy conservation programs are most effective when consumers set realistic goals.
- Rick Larrick of the Fuqua School of Business spurred the EPA to revise its fuel economy labeling by dispelling the “MPG illusion.” In a separate study, he also examined the correlation between political ideology and energy-efficiency choices.
- Fuqua professor Bryan Bollinger has published widely on the adoption and diffusion of green technologies.
- Research staff at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions have explored the role of energy efficiency in federal environmental regulations.