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A new study conducted by researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has found that when it comes to energy consumption, Hong Kong households do value the environment more than originally thought. However, households lack the smart technology to help track energy use, particularly in air-conditioning consumption. The researchers argue that providing such tools can drive existing eco-friendly interests into energy-saving actions.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Applied Energy and supported by a Hong Kong governmental public policy research grant, focused on energy and environmental attitudes in the city. More specifically, the researchers explored what motivates Hong Kong people to reduce air-conditioning use, the largest contributor to residential energy consumption in the city, as well as what motivates Hong Kong residents to opt for energy-efficient air conditioning appliances.
When it comes to energy use, the large-scale survey found that Hong Kong residents actually value the environment more highly than typically thought, and that the willingness to protect the environment were not affected by socio-demographic factors but were instead more connected with environmental knowledge.
“We often assume that people do not care about the environment, thus we think we could motivate them to save energy only if we provide them with monetary incentives,” Konstantinos Spandagos, the lead author of the paper, told Green Queen. “People are actually more altruistic than we think.”
Spandagos says that these results show that in order to promote energy-saving behaviour amongst Hong Kong residents, such as reducing the energy intensity of air-conditioning usage that will help to drastically reduce local carbon emissions, there needs to be a focus on providing platforms to improve residential awareness on the matters crucial to energy use.
“In Hong Kong, electricity is already cheap, so economic motivations alone may not be attractive enough to drive change,” explained Spandagos. “To drive change, we need to respond to their altruistic motivations.”
The researchers of the study believe that the opportunity lies in improving smart technology in homes when it comes to electric appliances. “We haven’t given [people] the appropriate platforms and tools through which they can transform their green interests into energy-saving actions,” Spandagos told Green Queen.
“Most importantly, we haven’t given them the information to help them understand how every single energy-saving action from their side may benefit the environment significantly.”
Currently, most air-conditioning appliances in Hong Kong are only required to provide a labelling scheme with limited information about its annual energy expenditure.
“Smart technology and the visibility and transparency that it potentially offers can really help towards changing this,” said Spandagos.
Researchers believe that smart technologies and devices represent an important tool to help Hong Kong households understand their emissions and monetary savings made if they take action on reducing air-conditioning intensity and usage. Practical and tailored information can also be offered through these devices to further improve environmental awareness and inform residents of how to reach the desired comfort temperature without having to over-consume electricity.
While Hong Kong’s two biggest electricity companies, CLP and Hong Kong Electric, have recently pledged to install smart meters for all new customers by 2025, the study shows that more rapid action and ensuring that older devices are also fitted with such tools can encourage much-needed energy-saving action in the city.
Lead image courtesy of Burak Karademir / Getty Images.