Understanding the human dimensions of a sustainable energy transition

Linda Steg*, Goda Perlaviciute, Ellen van der Werff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

292 Citations (Scopus)
677 Downloads (Pure)


Global climate change threatens the health, economic prospects, and basic food and water sources of people. A wide range of changes in household energy behavior is needed to realize a sustainable energy transition. We propose a general framework to understand and encourage sustainable energy behaviors, comprising four key issues. First, we need to identify which behaviors need to be changed. A sustainable energy transition involves changes in a wide range of energy behaviors, including the adoption of sustainable energy sources and energy-efficient technology, investments in energy efficiency measures in buildings, and changes in direct and indirect energy use behavior. Second, we need to understand which factors underlie these different types of sustainable energy behaviors. We discuss three main factors that influence sustainable energy behaviors: knowledge, motivations, and contextual factors. Third, we need to test the effects of interventions aimed to promote sustainable energy behaviors. Interventions can be aimed at changing the actual costs and benefits of behavior, or at changing people's perceptions and evaluations of different costs and benefits of behavioral options. Fourth, it is important to understand which factors affect the acceptability of energy policies and energy systems changes. We discuss important findings from psychological studies on these four topics, and propose a research agenda to further explore these topics. We emphasize the need of an integrated approach in studying the human dimensions of a sustainable energy transition that increases our understanding of which general factors affect a wide range of energy behaviors as well as the acceptability of different energy policies and energy system changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number805
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 17-Jun-2015


  • sustainable energy transition
  • behavior
  • interventions
  • values
  • acceptability

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