|Global energy consumption has been steadily rising since the 1990s, with projections estimating a 56% increase in consumption by 2040 (EIA, 2013). Although Canada’s industrial sector accounts for the largest share of electricity consumption, the nation’s residential sector is also a significant source of consumption (NRCAN, 2016). As such, numerous studies have explored the influences on adult attitudes and behaviour towards electricity consumption and conservation (Wallis et al., 2015).
Fewer studies, however, have investigated the attitudes and awarenesses of the electricity consumers of tomorrow; adolescents. Their role in the future of energy consumption warrants an investigation into the attitudes and awareness of this demographic with regards to electricity conservation. It is important to understand whether adolescents are in tune with current electricity conservation issues, if they are involved in any conservation practices, or if they are simply not interested.
A decade after Lynes and Robinson’s initial 2007 investigation into Ontario adolescents’ attitudes, awareness, and behaviour towards electricity conservation, this study aims to investigate the changes in these areas. The initial study surveying 500 Ontario teens was replicated in 2017, and statistical tests comparing both studies were conducted using Excel and SPSS software. The comparison between 2007 and 2017 adolescent attitudes towards electricity conservation indicated an overall decrease in the level of interest and engagement. However, it is important to note that this disconnect is likely not due to a lack of concern, but rather a lack of understanding between electricity consumption and the issues adolescents report being concerned with (i.e. climate change and creating a sustainable future).
In an attempt to comprehensively understand current attitudes towards electricity conservation, this study proposes a framework to investigate the affective, cognitive and conative (ACC) elements of adolescents’ attitudes towards electricity conservation, as well as the influences on the development of these attitudes. The proposed framework contributes an additional dimension to Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System’s model, which outlines variables affecting the development of attitudes such as age, gender, parents, schools, and media. This framework contextualizes the ACC components that generate adolescent attitudes towards electricity conservation, within the internal and external influences on these components.
Of the influences investigated, the level of parental education and sources of information were seen to have the most statistically significance influences in the 2017 survey. Teenagers of parents at either ends of the spectrum for levels of education (highest: second or graduate degree, lowest: some grade or high school) were seen to display higher levels of engagement and interest in electricity conservation. In addition, findings indicated that school remains an important influencer of these attitudes, whether EcoSchool certified or not.
Statistically significant positive correlations were observed between 2017 adolescents’ affects towards electricity conservation (“I don’t really care” to “I am really interested…”) and their conation towards conservation behaviours (“doing very little” to “doing all [they] could possible do”). Weaker correlations were observed between teenagers’ cognition and conation, and cognition and affect. However, it is acknowledged that this study did not extensively explore participants’ cognition of electricity conservation.
This study provides valuable insight from this demographic with regards to electricity conservation initiatives that would resonate with adolescents. The observed influences of parents, media, and school as sources of information recognize these as a valuable resource for promoting electricity-conservation attitudes and behaviours among this demographic. In addition, this study provides direction for pro-conservation programs to focus on developing affects and conations of adolescents towards this issue, to create more favourable attitudes towards electricity conservation.