Many Danes neglect to say yes to new eco-friendly electricity meter

The majority of Danish consumers would agree to have a new environmentally friendly electricity meter installed, if they didn’t have to get their computers out and actively enter a website to give their consent, says researcher from Aarhus University. Denmark is becoming less green each time a user does not say yes.

2015.06.24 | Julia Rolsted Stacey

A new electricity meter is waiting right around the corner. It will allow consumers to save power, it contributes to improving the power system and ensures a better climate future. The only thing consumers have to do is to contact their electricity company and agree to have the meter installed. But this appears to be difficult for a lot of people, and they neglect to get it done. Such are the results of a new study based on responses from approximately 3,000 consumers. The study is conducted by researchers from Aarhus BSS at Aarhus University.

“When they get a letter from the electricity company, consumers tend to leave it in the pile of other things that can be dealt with later. The majority of consumers will read the letter, but because they can’t really figure out whether to say yes or no to a new meter, they postpone making a decision,” explains researcher Madeleine Broman Toft, who is one of the researchers behind the study.

Actively saying yes is problematic

Madeleine Broman Toft has examined how many consumers will actively consent to a new environmentally friendly electricity meter when they receive a letter from their electricity company. According to her research, almost 80 per cent of the consumers would agree to have a new meter installed, if they received a letter informing them of their presumed consent – i.e. that the company had presumed that everyone would say yes. However, only 60 per cent of consumers claim that they would get around to giving their consent if they were asked to actively enter a website to do so.

The Danish legislation requires that electricity companies ask permission before setting up an electricity meter. According to Madeleine Broman Toft, more consumers would definitely say yes to new technologies if they did not have to make an active effort.

Madeleine Broman Toft explains that consumers make a lot of quick decisions on a daily basis. But choosing an electricity meter is not a quick decision for most people. Rather, they take it to be a difficult choice, and they may doubt whether the new meter is better than the one they already have. They may also consider whether a new installation would cause problems or cost money.

Clear messages pave the way

Madeleine Broman Toft’s research shows that it is very important for a electric company to convey a clear message when they contact their users. If the company is able to underline arguments that motivate action, there is a much greater chance that they will get the users to make the right decisions.

“Motivation is crucial. The users must be able to easily understand how the new technology works and what it’s all about. They must realise the impact of a particular installation and be able to see what will happen in the next steps in the process,” says Madeleine Broman Toft.

Further information

Madeleine Broman Toft
Department of Management
Aarhus BSS
Aarhus University
+45 8716 5406 

Facts about the study

  • The study has been conducted by Madeleine Broman Toft as part of her PhD dissertation entitled Consumer Adoption of Sustainable Energy Technology — the Case of Smart Grid Technology.
  • Research on consumers’ interest in energy-related matters and electricity supply shows a low degree of involvement.
  • This study has examined the significance of “default” for the consumers’ choice of Smart Grid technology.
  • The study was carried out as an online survey distributed to consumers in Denmark, Norway and Switzerland. 3,082 consumers participated in the survey.
  • With the energy agreement that came into effect in the spring of 2012, there is broad political support for an ambitious green transition, which among other things implies a considerable expansion of wind turbines.
  • By 2020, wind power will cover half of the Danish electricity consumption. And this poses a challenge to the power system in Denmark. 
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