An energy conscious workforce: New research looks at how to encourage staff to go green

November 27, 2012

As homeowners we are becoming cannier about turning down the thermostat to save our pennies and the planet but are we as energy conscious when we get to work?

A new £1.3m project, being led by researchers at The University of Nottingham, is to look at people's attitudes to energy consumption in the workplace and how to encourage colleagues to work together in reducing their organisation's carbon footprint.

Drawing on technical expertise at Nottingham's Horizon Digital Economy Research and design skills of experts at The University of Southampton, the five-year study will also aim to deliver new 'energy display' technologies that will allow workers to visualise their energy use and potentially identify areas where further savings could be made.

Project lead, Dr Alexa Spence said: "Obviously at home there is a financial incentive to save energy as well as what's termed the 'warm glow' environmental and moral imperative. We want to find out whether these incentives still apply when people reach their place of work and to look at which strategies are most successful in encouraging people to engage with their energy use."

The research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will see the academics collaborating with industry experts including Arup and WilSon Energy, who conduct energy monitoring for companies and provide energy efficiency solutions to reduce companies' costs and their impact on the environment.

The researchers will be given access to some of the consultants' client base which will allow them to find out what workers are already doing to save energy, what would encourage them to be more energy efficient and decide the best way of motivating the workforce to make further savings.

Dr Spence said: "Energy is invisible and we often don't think about it. When we go to work we don't go there with the specific aim of using energy, we are far too busy thinking about doing our job. We are not the bill payer, so there is not much incentive for us to make an effort to be more energy efficient. The challenge is how to incentivise people to want to save energy."

The Nottingham team, which includes sociologists and psychologists, will also be looking at how the workforce might prefer to effect change, either individually or part of a team and, if so, the best ways to encourage people to work together. They will be asking how companies can best inspire staff to take part in energy saving initiatives and how to sustain their enthusiasm and cooperation in the long-term.

Dr Spence added: "Firstly we need to know what workers have the power to change themselves and which things, for example the lighting or the building's heating, might be out of their control. We would like to promote organisational change by motivating the staff to ask constructive questions, for example, why do the lights need to be left on all night?"

The project will lead to the development of a 'toolkit' that they will test among staff at companies that are currently having their energy use monitored to establish whether it is successful in having an impact. This will encompass guidance on developing workplace initiatives as well as technical advice and design prototypes that can be installed to monitor energy use in new and engaging ways.

The resulting 'toolkit' will be rolled out to other companies with assistance from the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), an independent national charity that aims to help people and organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors to meet the twin challenges of rising energy costs and climate change.
-end-
Horizon is a research institute at The University of Nottingham engaged in digital economy research. Established in 2009, it represents an initial £40 million investment by Research Councils UK (RCUK), The University of Nottingham and more than 100 academic and industrial partners in both a Research Hub and Doctoral Training Centre within the RCUK Digital Economy programme.

Further information on the project is available on the web at www.energyforchange.ac.uk

University of Nottingham

Related Energy Consumption Articles from Brightsurf:

Optimizing of VCSEL photon lifetime for minimum energy consumption at varying bit rates
Prof. Bimberg's group at Bimberg Chinese-German Center for Green Photonics Changchun at Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed VCSELs emitting at 850 nm, 880 nm, 910 nm, 940 nm, which were optimized to achieve 50+ Gb/s, enabling 200+ Gb/s data transmission across a multimode fiber.

Solar assisted heating networks reduce environmental impact and energy consumption
More than 40% of energy consumption in the European Union is by buildings and 63% of this figure is due to residential dwellings.

First measurement of electron energy distributions, could enable sustainable energy technologies
To answer a question crucial to technologies such as energy conversion, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Liverpool in the UK have figured out a way to measure how many 'hot charge carriers' -- for example, electrons with extra energy -- are present in a metal nanostructure.

Long-term developments of energy pricing and consumption in industry
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have collaborated with British economists to study how energy consumption by Swiss industry develops depending on energy pricing.

Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.

A smart way to predict building energy consumption
In a time of aging infrastructure and increasingly smart control of buildings, the ability to predict how buildings use energy -- and how much energy they use -- has remained elusive, until now.

Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.

Space dragons: Researchers observe energy consumption in quasars
Researchers, for the first time, have observed the accelerated rate at which eight quasars consume interstellar fuel to feed their black holes.

New discipline proposed: Macro-energy systems -- the science of the energy transition
In a perspective published in Joule on Aug. 14, a group of researchers led by Stanford University propose a new academic discipline, 'macro-energy systems,' as the science of the energy transition.

How much energy storage costs must fall to reach renewable energy's full potential
The cost of energy storage will be critical in determining how much renewable energy can contribute to the decarbonization of electricity.

Read More: Energy Consumption News and Energy Consumption Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.