skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Accelerating demand for residential solar photovoltaics: Can simple framing strategies increase consumer interest?

Abstract

Household adoption of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from electricity generation. High upfront costs, however, are often a barrier to adoption, even when costs may be offset by future energy savings. Through a series of randomized experiments, we examine whether framing strategies grounded in behavioral economics and psychology can be used to increase the financial appeal of such products. Using mock ads for residential solar photovoltaics (PV), we test four frames: gain/loss framing, temporal framing, varied savings amounts, and simple vs. detailed savings calculations. Overall, we find that reframing the financial benefits of PV does not greatly influence the appeal of solar or the likelihood to respond to the mock ads. Instead, underlying consumer motivations and predispositions (i.e., perceived social support, consumer innovativeness, and personal pro-environmental norms) are the primary factors driving interest in adopting solar. Our findings suggest that tailoring messages to targeted consumer segments may be more effective than attempts to market the financial benefits of PV to broad audiences. Furthermore, the results also contribute to behavioral economics and psychology research by identifying contexts under which the gain/loss framing bias and the present/future framing bias may not apply.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3]; ORCiD logo [3];  [3]
  1. Univ. of Chicago, Chicago, IL (United States); Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (United States)
  2. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  3. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Renewable Power Office. Solar Energy Technologies Office
OSTI Identifier:
1476980
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1778484
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-6A20-70069
Journal ID: ISSN 0959-3780
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC36-08GO28308; SM13SA01; SM13SB01
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Global Environmental Change
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 53; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0959-3780
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; residential solar photovoltaics; energy investments; message framing; prospect theory; loss aversion; construal level theory

Citation Formats

Wolske, Kimberly S., Todd, Annika, Rossol, Michael, McCall, James D., and Sigrin, Benjamin. Accelerating demand for residential solar photovoltaics: Can simple framing strategies increase consumer interest?. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.08.005.
Wolske, Kimberly S., Todd, Annika, Rossol, Michael, McCall, James D., & Sigrin, Benjamin. Accelerating demand for residential solar photovoltaics: Can simple framing strategies increase consumer interest?. United States. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.08.005
Wolske, Kimberly S., Todd, Annika, Rossol, Michael, McCall, James D., and Sigrin, Benjamin. 2018. "Accelerating demand for residential solar photovoltaics: Can simple framing strategies increase consumer interest?". United States. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.08.005. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1476980.
@article{osti_1476980,
title = {Accelerating demand for residential solar photovoltaics: Can simple framing strategies increase consumer interest?},
author = {Wolske, Kimberly S. and Todd, Annika and Rossol, Michael and McCall, James D. and Sigrin, Benjamin},
abstractNote = {Household adoption of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from electricity generation. High upfront costs, however, are often a barrier to adoption, even when costs may be offset by future energy savings. Through a series of randomized experiments, we examine whether framing strategies grounded in behavioral economics and psychology can be used to increase the financial appeal of such products. Using mock ads for residential solar photovoltaics (PV), we test four frames: gain/loss framing, temporal framing, varied savings amounts, and simple vs. detailed savings calculations. Overall, we find that reframing the financial benefits of PV does not greatly influence the appeal of solar or the likelihood to respond to the mock ads. Instead, underlying consumer motivations and predispositions (i.e., perceived social support, consumer innovativeness, and personal pro-environmental norms) are the primary factors driving interest in adopting solar. Our findings suggest that tailoring messages to targeted consumer segments may be more effective than attempts to market the financial benefits of PV to broad audiences. Furthermore, the results also contribute to behavioral economics and psychology research by identifying contexts under which the gain/loss framing bias and the present/future framing bias may not apply.},
doi = {10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.08.005},
url = {https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1476980}, journal = {Global Environmental Change},
issn = {0959-3780},
number = C,
volume = 53,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {9}
}

Journal Article:

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 7 works
Citation information provided by
Web of Science

Figures / Tables:

Fig. 1 Fig. 1: Mock ad from Study 1 showing annual gain frame for California.

Save / Share:

Works referenced in this record:

Estimating Time Preferences from Convex Budgets
journal, December 2012


Peer Effects in the Diffusion of Solar Photovoltaic Panels
journal, November 2012


Message framing in green advertising: the effect of construal level and consumer environmental concern
journal, January 2015


The Effects of Personal Relevance and Repetition on Persuasive Processing
journal, June 2004


Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field
journal, May 2009


Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making
journal, November 2005


Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review
journal, June 2002


Household energy use: Applying behavioural economics to understand consumer decision-making and behaviour
journal, January 2015


To save or to lose: does framing price promotion affect consumers' purchase intentions?
journal, March 2011


Individual Discount Rates and the Purchase and Utilization of Energy-Using Durables: Comment
journal, April 1980


Bridging the Energy Efficiency Gap: Policy Insights from Economic Theory and Empirical Evidence
journal, January 2014


Using Social Cognition and Persuasion to Promote Energy Conservation: A Quasi-Experiment1
journal, September 1988


Spatial patterns of solar photovoltaic system adoption: The influence of neighbors and the built environment
journal, October 2014


Individual Discount Rates and the Purchase and Utilization of Energy-Using Durables
journal, April 1979


Consumer eco-innovation adoption: assessing attitudinal factors and perceived product characteristics
journal, February 2011


Exploring consumer adoption of a high involvement eco-innovation using value-belief-norm theory
journal, January 2011


The effects of price bundling on consumer evaluations of product offerings
journal, June 1999


Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk
journal, March 1979


Exploring the Consumer Decision Process in the Adoption of Solar Energy Systems
journal, December 1981


The adoption of cleaner vehicles in the UK: exploring the consumer attitude–action gap
journal, January 2007


Designing better energy metrics for consumers
journal, January 2015


Solar Community Organizations and active peer effects in the adoption of residential PV
journal, April 2014


Overcoming barriers and uncertainties in the adoption of residential solar PV
journal, April 2016


Advances in consumer electric vehicle adoption research: A review and research agenda
journal, January 2015


The Behavior of the Market for Energy Efficiency in Residential Appliances Including Heating and Cooling Equipment
journal, January 1987


Subjective social status: its determinants and its association with measures of ill-health in the Whitehall II study
journal, March 2003


Frames of Reference and Buyers' Perception of Price and Value
journal, October 1995


Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice
journal, August 1985


Temporal construal.
journal, January 2003


Construal-level theory of psychological distance.
journal, January 2010


Construal Levels and Psychological Distance: Effects on Representation, Prediction, Evaluation, and Behavior
journal, April 2007


It's the Mind-Set that Matters: The Role of Construal Level and Message Framing in Influencing Consumer Efficacy and Conservation Behaviors
journal, June 2011


Works referencing / citing this record:

Peer influence on household energy behaviours
journal, January 2020


Figures/Tables have been extracted from DOE-funded journal article accepted manuscripts.