Edited by Victoria Wells, Diana Gregory-Smith and Danae Manika
Chapter 16: Workplace energy use feedback in context
Energy consumption in offices is particularly important amongst the environmentally impacting activities of office workers. Almost 70 per cent of this consumption is electricity, with information and computing technologies amongst the highest uses. In this chapter, we explore the question of whether individual energy feedback can influence behaviour. Research evidence on feedback in the home is reviewed but despite extensive research, the mix of approaches, small sample sizes and absence of control groups, baseline usage and inferential statistical analysis pose a challenge to conclusive findings – published studies report wide variation. In the workplace, approaches, interventions and outcomes have also been varied. A common conclusion of such studies is that interventions in the workplace can contribute to behaviour change and reduction in energy consumption and, in particular, that feedback can be an effective component of intervention. However, the chapter concludes that, despite a rapidly growing empirical base, definitive findings from the workplace remain elusive. The psychological mechanisms by which feedback may work are still unknown. Information deficit alone is insufficient as an explanation. The most promising constructs to explore further are motivation and meaning, awareness (even though we know that raised awareness in itself does not necessarily result in changed behaviour) and self-efficacy. Behaviour change requires motivation beyond the provision of information. Furthermore, the time for feedback aimed simply at energy reduction is gone. As economies shift towards lower carbon, the issue is no longer one of less energy use but shifting energy use to renewable sources alongside reducing waste. Energy at work is consumed in a collective endeavour and workers should be involved in energy-saving strategies.
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