Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Public Policy
Voluntary behavioral initiatives to promote energy efficiency, green energy, and usage curtailment behavior among households are important components of national and international efforts to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets and to conserve valuable energy resources. The current policy literature, however, is in need of further empirical explanations for why such strategies are effective in some cases but not in others. This dissertation examines the determinants of energy-saving decisions and activities at the household level. Its three empirical essays focus on the attitudinal and social structural characteristics of residential energy users and their influences on multiple types of energy-related behavior. The first essay focuses on the ways in which households assign value to different attributes of their electric utility service. Results show that renters, middle-income, and highly educated respondents demand higher levels of environmental protection and renewable energy options from their electric utility relative to competing service attributes such as affordability and comfort. The study also finds that issue-specific environmental attitudes (such as concern about climate change) and those that invoke a sense of duty toward future generations are more predictive of green service preferences than behavior-specific beliefs. The second essay addresses the well-documented gap between stated attitudes and pro-environmental behavior. Empirical results suggest that general attitudes about energy issues are an indirect rather than a direct cause of energy behavior and that this result depends on the type of behavior under study: The relationship between these general attitudes and behavior is mediated, in some cases, by more specific cognitions such as norms, which reflect the individual’s sense of what individuals and societies ought to do about energy use and related environmental problems. The third essay examines the ways in which different household characteristics influence the decision to enroll in different types of utility-sponsored demand-side management programs. It finds that heavy users of electricity are more likely to participate in time-of-use (TOU) pricing but not in direct load control or energy efficiency audit programs. It also finds that participation increases with home ownership, tenure, and age of housing structure for the load control and TOU programs but not for energy efficiency audits.