Behavioural Economics Unit
We focus on encouraging measurable changes to energy behaviour, using the latest evidence from behavioural science and economics
What is behavioural economics?
Behavioural economics combines insights from economics and psychology to understand why people behave the way they do. Traditional economics assumes that people make rational decisions that serve their best interests. Behavioural economics on the other hand recognises that people are influenced by a wide range of factors and don’t always behave the way we might expect them to.
Why is behavioural economics relevant to sustainable energy?
We are all becoming more aware of the need to use energy sustainably, particularly amid growing concern about climate change. However, many people are still failing to take steps to reduce their energy-related carbon emissions, even though they say they want to – an intention-action gap.
While in some cases there are clear barriers in the way (e.g. a lack of money), in others there are psychological factors or “biases” that may stop people from making the best long-term decisions for themselves.
For example, people may:
- Undervalue future cost savings from investments such as electric vehicles or heat pumps due to present bias.
- Fail to take action when faced with too many options to upgrade their home due to choice overload.
SEAI’s Behavioural Economics Unit was set up to better understand and address the human factors that influence sustainable energy behaviours and the uptake of sustainable energy solutions.
What do we do and how do we do it?
We use a behavioural science approach to help ensure policies, programmes and communications are carefully tailored to make it easy for citizens and businesses to avail of the benefits of sustainable energy.
We use a variety of research methods:
- We conduct evidence reviews to assess the potential for behavioural solutions to reduce energy-related carbon emissions.
- We use qualitative methods, surveys and online experiments to better understand the factors influencing energy-related decisions and behaviours.
- We design innovative behaviourally-informed interventions to encourage measurable changes to energy behaviour and evaluate these using robust scientific methods such as randomised-controlled trials before they are implemented at scale.
Who do we work with?
We engage with programmes across SEAI to identify collaborative projects, to use behavioural science to improve delivery and to ensure our own outputs benefit from the expertise of colleagues.
We collaborate with other departments and research groups in Ireland such as the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. We are involved in national initiatives such as National Dialogue on Climate Action (NDCA), the National Social and Behavioural Advisory Group on Climate Action, and the Policy & Research District Heating Working Group.
We are actively involved in international working groups such as the OECD Behavioural Insights Network and the International Energy Agency Users TCP's Behavioural Insights Platform, and helped develop a behavioural insights toolkit for energy policy practitioners.
We also regularly work with the private sector and academic researchers on topics of mutual interest.
If you are interested in finding out more about what we do and potential collaborations, please get in contact by emailing email@example.com.