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Triple dividend options in transforming heating behaviour patterns
Energy for heating and cooling accounts for a substantial share of final energy consumption in the EU; space heating is the largest contributor to household energy consumption. Engaging in more energy-conscious behaviour and making investments into the refurbishment of dwellings can play a substantial role in mitigating carbon emissions, while also reducing consumers’ utility bills. Current research suggests that regulatory measures and interventions can be more effective if they account for the different consumer-level practices that influence the behaviour of households. These are determined by an interplay of various factors, including sociocultural and demographic characteristics, attitudes, values, beliefs and social norms, as well as technical and institutional constraints. The paper is based on the research carried out within the Horizon 2020 project ENABLE.EU, which was designed to deliver support for a citizen-oriented energy transition towards a low-carbon transformation of the energy system. Eighteen citizen and six expert focus groups were conducted in five countries: France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, and Ukraine, using the method of participatory systems mapping, in the form of causal loop diagrams. Overlapping issues and country specific behaviour patterns were identified and analysed. The research shed light on the main challenges influenced by either beneficial or blocking strategies, related to heating behaviour of the society. Those challenges and strategies provided an input to policy options towards a more sustainable behaviour, suggested to a large extent by involved stakeholders. Policy options were classified into five themes: (1) promoting information-sharing and communication, (2) awareness-raising of consumers and policy makers, (3) promoting the availability of technological solutions, (4) introducing supporting financial measures, and (5) deploying tools for fighting energy poverty. Some options were recognized as having the potential to create a so-called triple dividend in terms of reducing energy consumption and carbon footprints and improving well-being in terms of health and/or comfort. Maintaining a healthy temperature by avoiding overheating or overcooling generates health benefits, energy benefits and cost benefits. This strategy assumes awareness-raising and trustworthy communication. Increasing the use of thermostats as a technological solution may help correct some poor heating-related habits. Community-based projects may have benefits that go beyond the economic gains made by saving on energy costs, and the environmental benefits of less pollution. They can promote a better community life and foster inclusion, whereby shared practices encourage members of the community to discover and take advantage of energy-saving measures, and better recognise their benefits. Emphasising good practices (e.g. through social comparison) may also be useful. Affordable loans, cooperation between citizens, and the cooperation of citizens with energy service companies fall into this category. Helping poor households through financial support to invest into reconstruction that promotes efficient energy use empowers those households economically. The focus groups made it possible to actively engage participants in a shared process of thinking and generated a deeper understanding of the attitudes and opinions of households, the obstacles they face in their everyday lives, and the potential solutions they can identify and support.