Real Estate

The influence of the energy policy on energy behaviour in the housing market

November 29, 2013

The world must be saved, and quickly too. That was the message of Al Gore's film 'An Inconvenient Truth', but world leaders had already decided earlier to avert a climatic apocalypse when the Kyoto protocol was drawn up and signed in 1997. CO2 emissions must decrease by 20 percent in 2020, otherwise Amersfoort will soon be a coastal city. The housing market is a focal point of this policy agenda given that more than 25 percent of these CO2 emissions are produced in this market. But what about energy savings around our home? Is the energy policy already leaving energy-saving traces behind? And how do consumers respond to all energy-saving options in this efficiency race?

Image: © Nationale Beeldbank

The existing housing stock features prominently in both the recent housing agreement and the energy agreement. Large-scale empirical research has already demonstrated that the thermal quality of a home has a significant effect on current gas consumption. The tightening up of building standards in the early eighties helped decrease average gas consumption by over 20% thanks to improved outer wall insulation. More than two-thirds of existing housing stock in the Netherlands was built before that period and is therefore inadequate in terms of energy efficiency. The incumbent government is therefore keen to invest in insulation programmes that stimulate both employment and energy savings. This is a sustainable investment that pays for itself in the long term, through lower household gas bills as well as lower CO2 emissions for society as a whole.

But many of these energy-improvement plans are inspired by the ensuing technological possibilities. Double glazing, heat pumps, PUR wall insulation, solar panels and intelligent meters are just a few examples of technological innovations used increasingly during the past few years to reduce household energy consumption. But not all households use the opportunities afforded to them, and all of the estimated savings are not realised after implementation. The behaviour of consumers plays a large role in all of this. Both the adoption and use of energy-related improvements require human choices, something which still appears to be more complicated that anticipated in practice. In this article I briefly discuss four studies relating to energy policy for the housing market and the importance of consumer behaviour in this regard.

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Energiebeleid en -gedrag in de woningmarkt, Dirk Brounen (2013)
This article was published in a special dossier edition of Economisch Statistische Berichten (ESB). 

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