Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Attitudes: An Exploration of a Landscape of Choices
by McClaren, Mersiha Spahic, Ph.D., Portland State University, 2015, 210; 3687548
Abstract (Summary)

This study explored energy-related attitudes and energy-saving behaviors that are no- or low-cost and relatively simple to perform. This study relied on two data sources: a longitudinal but cross-sectional survey of 4,102 U.S. residents (five biennial waves of this survey were conducted from 2002 to 2010) and a 2010 cross-sectional survey of 2,000 California residents. These two surveys contained data on two no- and low-cost behaviors: changing thermostat setting to save energy (no-cost behavior) and CFL installation behavior (low-cost behavior). In terms of attitudes, two attitudinal measures emerged from these data following a Cronbach's alpha and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA): the pro-environmental attitude and concern for the energy use in the U.S. society. These two attitudes, along with other socio-demographic and external factors (home ownership, weather, price of energy, etc.), were examined to assess whether attitude-behavior relationships persisted over time, were more prominent across certain groups, or were constrained by income or other socio-demographic factors. Three theoretical viewpoints of how attitudes may relate to behavior guided the analysis on how attitudes and contextual factors may inter-relate either directly or through a moderator variable to affect thermostat-setting and CFL installation behavior.

Results from these analyses revealed four important patterns. First, a relationship between the pro-environmental attitude and the two behaviors (thermostat-setting and CFL installation behavior) was weak but persistent across time. Second, financial factors such as income moderated the pro-environmental attitude and CFL installation relationship, indicating that the pro-environmental attitude could influence the behavior in those situations where financial resources are sufficient to comfortably allow the consumer to participate. Third, this study documented that most people reported changing thermostat settings to save energy or having one or more CFLs in their homes. This finding suggests that organizations, policy makers, or energy efficiency program administrators may want to assess whether they should pursue these two behaviors further, since they appear to be very common in the U.S. population. Last, this study showed that thermostat-setting and CFL installation behavior have multi-factorial influences; many factors in addition to attitudes were significantly associated with these behaviors, and all these factors together explained no more than 16% of behavioral variance. This suggested that if energy-saving behaviors are a function of many different variables, of which none appear to be the "silver bullet" in explaining the behaviors (as noted in this study), then policy analysis should explore a broader number of causal pathways and entertain a wider range of interventions to influence consumers to save energy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lutzenhiser, Loren
Commitee: Bluffstone, Randall, Newsom, Jason, Peters, Jane, Strathman, James
School: Portland State University
Department: Urban Studies
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-B 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Energy
Keywords: Compact fluorescent light (cfl), Energy attitudes, Energy efficiency, Longitudinal, Pro-environmental attitude, Thermostat setting
Publication Number: 3687548
ISBN: 9781321651485
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