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Monetary and unconventional incentives in electricity conservation

Institutions involvedZHAW, BFE-EWG (project funding)
Contact personsCorinne Moser, Claudio Cometta (ZHAW)
KeywordsEnergy efficiency, monetary and unconventional incentives, household energy consumption, behaviour changes
Disciplines Psychology, behavioural economics
Unit of observationHouseholds
Period2015 and 2016
Geographical spaceSwitzerland (without Ticino)
Data collection methodTwo online experiments (N = 805, N = 1106)
Data availabilityNot available


Publications and working papers

Final report, to be published in autumn 2016: Moser, C., Frick, V., & Cometta, C. (2016). How do different residential consumer groups react towards monetary and unconventional non-monetary incentives to reduce their electricity consumption? BFE: Ittigen.


    Demand side management is getting more relevant for energy utilities in order to tackle the energy transition necessary for reaching the goals of the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050. Besides technical approaches to increase energy efficiency, also approaches for behavioural-change are necessary. Here, energy utilities may use incentives to engage the public and their customers in particular. The key idea of this project is to examine, if unconventional non-monetary incentives are particularly successful in engaging households in electricity-saving through behavioural change. Therefore, we first conducted a series of qualitative expert interviews with representatives of energy utilities to identify suitable incentives. Subsequently, we conducted two large scale online-experiments (N = 805-1106) to examine which incentive schemes are most effective in general, and for certain consumer groups. The first experiment revealed that fees receive low acceptance and energy saving intentions were not higher when monetary or unconventional rewards were offered compared to a condition without incentives. Also, different socio-economic groups did not differ in their intention to change their behaviour for different incentives, in contrast to groups differeing in their awareness about energy issues. The second experiment offered participants a choice of incentives. Here, a choice among coupons that can be used on a day-to-day basis (e.g., coupons for public transport and supermarkets) was most motivating for participants to change their behaviour. As in the first experiment, we found no differences among socio-economic groups. Incentives did not have a differing effect on participants’ customer loyalty towards the energy utility. Taken together, both experiments suggest that unconventional incentives are not more succesful compared to other types of incentives to engage customers that are uninterested in energy issues so far. However, both experiments suggest that energy utilities’ promotion of energy saving through behavioural change was highly welcomed by participants in general. Also, both experiments suggest that participants are keen to learn about their own energy consumption. The project provides a rich basis for starting a real world field trial in order to further explore the energy-saving potential of different types of incentives.

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