Energy management: An intervention-based analysis
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Buildings account for approximately 40% of global energy use and emit 33% of global GHG emissions. Buildings also offer the greatest potential for GHG emission reductions, as energy consumption within existing stock can be reduced by 30-80% using proven and commercially available technologies. Despite this promise, there is a pervasive ‘performance gap’ between optimal and actual energy use within buildings, even in retrofitted or new high-performance buildings. This gap is attributed to the decision-making of individuals and organizations that occupy buildings and use energy services, resulting in both market and non-market failures. As such, energy efficiency is widely recognized as critical behavioural component that needs to be addressed in climate change mitigation strategy and policy, aimed at reducing the performance gap. Globally, energy efficiency finance is one of six workstreams under the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan, and is seen as an essential component in achieving the United Nations’ 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all”. Currently, there is an estimated $430 billion USD shortfall in energy efficiency investments to meet this goal; global government and utility spending on energy efficiency was estimated to be US$25.6 billion in 2017, and is expected to grow to US$56.1 billion in 2026. While the enormous and increasing amounts of taxpayer dollars being spent on energy efficiency around the world are promising, the varying degrees of performance outcomes resulting from these efforts are cause for concern. Examinations of national energy efficiency policies have shown only modest impact on national GHG emissions reductions and that defining energy as a demand-side resource limits the extent to which energy efficiency can be achieved. In addition, spending public funds to reduce negative externalities instead of correcting the internalization of external costs creates asymmetric incentives, leading to heterogeneous results. Drawing from the pro-environmental behaviour change literature, this dissertation positions stakeholder engagement an integral part of the success of energy efficiency programs, and thus focuses on the energy management decisions of various stakeholders at multiple scales within an energy systems context. Specifically, the relationship between voluntary programs and decisions about electricity consumption – i.e., do the former actually cause the latter to change – is expanded upon in three distinct (but interrelated) papers. The overall goal of this research was to investigate the success factors and barriers to the achievement of GHG emissions reductions in Ontario and to identify potential opportunities to achieve greater energy efficiency and conservation outcomes. Chapter Two of this dissertation presents a scoping review of the pro-environmental behaviour change literature, with a focus on the important/influential communities of scholarship that shape the structure of the field, and the extent to which emerging research fronts reflect the structural themes. The results revealed that the Journal of Social Issues (JSI) 2000 Vol. 56 Issue 3 was a compilation of important/influential papers, measured by co-citation analysis, bibliometric coupling analysis, and four types of centrality. A dense, six-cluster network was revealed, with two papers from this special issue by Stern and Dunlap & Van Liere forming the lobes of the structure. The four themes identified by the editors of the JSI 2000 special issue – synthesis, motives/values, power, and applicability – were found to generally map onto the structural network. This scoping review also revealed that the emerging research fronts reflect a stronger focus on the applicability of environmental behaviour change theories on salient issues such as consumerism, household (Abrahamse & Steg, 2011) and workplace energy consumption, transportation choice, and tourism. Chapter Three of this dissertation addresses the identified gap related to consequences of intervention design and implementation through a quantitative analysis of data collected by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). A multi-level growth curve model was used to explain the achievement and rate of change towards the provincial Peak Demand and Cumulative Energy Savings targets by Ontario’s local distribution companies (LDCs) from 2011-2014, the first Conservation First Framework period. While there was insufficient variance in the data to allow for analysis of the Peak Demand target, the model revealed statistically significant variability in the achievement of the Net Cumulative Energy Savings target, as well as the rate of change towards the target amongst the LDCs. The results showed that in the Ontario context, customer density was statistically significant in predicting the achievement of an LDC’s Net Cumulative Energy Savings target. More importantly, the statistically significant variance of the rate of change over time demonstrates that LDCs moved towards their respective targets at different rates. This variance was largely left unexplained by the multi-level model developed in this case study, therefore opportunities remain to improve the model and offer further insight into Ontario’s energy conservation landscape at this level of the energy system. Chapter Four of this dissertation focused on the end use of energy, applying systems theory to explore opportunities to reduce the performance gap in commercial office buildings. This study used interview data from Ontario and Alberta, two provinces with different electricity grid compositions, electricity prices, and levels of energy consumption. A conceptual overview of the relationships between system components was developed, and five modes of behaviour were identified as pathways for increasing the investment in building retrofits and stakeholder engagement in energy behaviour programs. In this case study, evidence of collaboration between stakeholders to discuss shared benefits and outcomes created win-win scenarios, and mitigated some of the split-incentive challenges that have been documented in the literature. Findings from this dissertation contribute to the pro-environmental behaviour change literature by offering quantitative and qualitative evidence that deepen existing knowledge on the design and implementation of interventions to improve energy efficiency outcomes. Collectively, the three distinct papers presented in this dissertation established a need to examine the performance gap through a systems framework in order to ascertain the extent to which impacts at the infrastructure, institutional, and individual levels of the energy system are being addressed, and to leverage opportunities to catalyze motivations and reduce barriers for all system stakeholders, simultaneously. This framework is critical because individuals and organizations do not make decisions about energy efficiency and conservation in isolation; rather they are part of complex and nested social networks, where behaviour is influenced by the interactions and relationships between system components. Several key conclusions emerged from the synthesis of three papers. Considering electric distribution utilities as the unit of analysis, financial and operational metrics were insufficient at explaining the variability in CDM target achievement and the rate of change towards targets over time, pointing to a need to establish other differences between utilities that may have more predictive power. In the commercial real estate sector, corporate leadership and organizational culture were found to be determinants of retrofit investment behavior, prompting the question of whether such characteristics may also influence CDM target achievement in utilities.
Cite this version of the work
Stephanie Whitney (2018). Energy management: An intervention-based analysis. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13949