Saving energy

OECD Observer

Click to enlarge.

Environmental policies can change people’s daily habits, as a new OECD survey shows.

Did you know that Norwegians are more likely to have invested in solar panels and wind turbines than other OECD countries? Or that the Dutch are the most likely to turn off their electrical appliances, rather than leave them on standby? These are just two of the findings that emerge in an illuminating OECD survey of people’s behaviour towards the environment in 10 OECD countries and five areas, including energy. The survey was based on more than 10,000 responses gathered in 2008. As the survey suggests, environmental policies do make a difference.

Governments have introduced a wide variety of initiatives to improve energy efficiency and develop the use of renewable energy to tackle climate change, including providing grants to firms and households for installing renewable energy appliances, encouraging consumers to reduce standby power and phasing out incandescent light bulbs. While the survey shows that those who say they are concerned about the environment are taking action, it also shows that other people will change their behaviour too if given the right incentives and information.

Take energy charges (Graph 2). Results confirm that these work, since respondents paying charges are more likely to save energy, whether by adopting energy-saving behaviour, such as turning off lights or investing in appliances rated high in energy efficiency. Pricing policies are key to encouraging people to save energy. Homeowners are more likely than tenants to invest in energy-saving equipment and renewable energy technologies (Graph 3).

Click to enlarge

People who own their houses are more likely to have invested in thermal insulation or efficient heating boilers, for example, over the past 10 years than those who do not own their homes. This is largely because they are able to recover the costs of their investment. This has several possible policy implications; for instance, landlords could be given incentives to “green” their rental properties, and tenants could be given the right to recover from their landlords the cost of making such improvements. While the French are most likely to have received support for installing thermal insulation and renewable energy technologies, few respondents in all the countries surveyed report having received government assistance for those investments.

Just under 20% of households report that they “take special measures to buy renewable energy from their service providers”. The Netherlands and Korea report the highest percentages of respondents who opt to buy renewable energy from their electricity companies, while in countries with a large ratio of hydroelectric energy in their standard fuel mix, such as Canada and Norway, those percentages are much lower. The survey also shows that almost half of all respondents are not willing to pay too much more to use green energy. Almost 50% of households were not willing to pay any premium to use renewable energy; in a few countries, only 25% of respondents say they would pay more than 5% above their current electricity bill to use green energy.

More survey results are available at
For more information, contact Ysé or

©OECD Observer No 276-77, December 2009-January 2010

Economic data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría discusses the uncertainty in politics around the world, lack of proper skills for future jobs, global growth and US-Mexico relations.
  • Green Talks on 3D printing: 3D printing may be growing rapidly and innovations abound, but what does this mean for the environment? Click on the picture to join Shardul Agrawala of the OECD Environment Directorate on 27 February at 13:00 CET to discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of widespread 3D printing.
  • How should pension systems account for gender differences and deliver equitable pensions for women and men? Do differences in financial literacy between men and women impact their long-term well-being? These are some of the questions to be debated at an OECD-hosted conference taking place on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017