The impacts of household behaviors and housing choice on residential energy consumption


Hossein Estiri. 2014. “The impacts of household behaviors and housing choice on residential energy consumption.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Thesis Type: phd.


Despite efforts made in the past decade to curb excessive energy consumption and the corresponding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both energy consumption and GHG emissions are expected to increase in coming years. Not only does such increasing trends epitomize the escalating, enduring human contribution to global warming, it verifies that our current policies are not working, at least not as well as expected or hoped. Globally, approximately a quarter of our total energy consumption is in the home, almost as much as in any other sector. Yet an understanding of the processes, determinants, and consequences of household energy consumption remains elusive. Conventional research on residential energy consumption has often applied linear methodologies and overwhelmingly focused on physical attributes of the housing stocks and systems. This approach, therefore, has failed: 1) to provide a coherent perspective of energy consumption processes, and 2) to account for the role of household behaviors. Accordingly, conventional energy policy has been left without the essential understanding of the phenomenon that would allow it to take effective action. To rectify issues with conventional research and policy, this research applies a non-linear and interdisciplinary approach to household energy consumption as an outcome of housing consumption and choice behaviors. Using data from the latest Residential Energy Consumption Survey, I use a set of Structural Equation Models to estimate the direct, indirect, and total effects of household and housing characteristics on energy use. Outcomes demonstrate that household characteristics have an indirect effect on energy consumption by influencing housing unit attributes, the housing choice effect on energy consumption. That is, a household's choice of housing unit has a permanent effect on the household's energy consumption, as an outcome, up until they relocate. Results of this study show that, accounting for the housing choice effects, the overall effect of household characteristics on energy consumption is almost twice as important as anticipated by conventional research. This study's findings highlight the role of housing choice and consumption behaviors in shaping residential energy consumption patterns. Energy consumption is expected to increase due to inevitable sociodemographic and economic changes. In addition to investing in improved building efficiencies and technologies, smart energy policies aimed at reducing energy consumption should promote more sustainable housing consumption behaviors and provide better housing choices.