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Energy Use: The Human Dimension
hope. This occurs both because information that is made available does not reach all of the intended audience and because the information that does reach the audience often remains unused. But because the implementation of information campaigns has been severely restricted it would be a mistake to conclude that energy information cannot be effective. As Ester and Winett (1982) have shown, the frequent finding of ineffectiveness reflects the fact that the interventions evaluated are usually of poor design.
Problems and Opportunities
In Chapter 3, we identified several conditions that partly explain why information does not always lead people to take all actions that are in their own economic interest. Some of these conditions are outside the control of any information program: lack of funds; inability to invest in property that is only rented or leased; unavailability of desired energy-saving products; and the fact that many households, because of their own or someone else’s previous decisions, own, live in, or operate energy-inefficient houses, apartments, automobiles, furnaces, or appliances that are prohibitively expensive to replace. But there are still other problems and opportunities for information programs.
Government programs have emphasized developing energy information that is accurate and reliable (in a scientific sense) and disseminating the information to reach many people. These emphases are necessary, but there are other problems that must also be addressed if an information program is to be effective:
Scarcity of Attention. Energy users sometimes act as problem avoiders. For many people, processing complex energy information presents a formidable task. Information is less likely to be used if it arrives when a householder is busy with more pressing issues; if it is too detailed for the energy user’s needs; if it is not easily related to the recipient’s daily concerns; or if it is presented in a manner that fails to attract attention.
Diversity of Energy Users’Needs. Because households use different fuels in different proportions for different purposes, because they live in different kinds of buildings, because they have different travel needs, and because of variations in income and housing tenure, general information includes much that is irrelevant for any given energy user. This may distract from relevant information or make the provider of the information seem unreliable or useless. But the problem of diversity is not generic. It is most serious for information about such technologies as solar heating and home insulation, for which the energy savings vary greatly with the building, the climate, the manner of installation, and users’ behavior. It is less serious for mass-produced products like automobiles and air conditioners, because,