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Doctoral School Sustainable Development II - Transition towards sustainable energy behaviour

Project Leader
Penker Marianne, BOKU Project Leader
Type of Research
Applied Research
Project partners
Utah State University, UT 84322 Logan, United States (USA).
Function of the Project Partner: Partner

Further information:

Muhar Andreas, Sub Projectleader
Braito Michael, Project Staff
BOKU Research Units
Doctoral School Sustainable Development
Institute for Landscape Development, Recreation and Conservation Planning
Institute of Sustainable Economic Development
Funded by
Problem statement
Although we deepened our understanding of how and why people choose to behave, it is not yet fully clear how to encourage environmentally oriented behaviour in order to reduce human impact on nature. Economic incentives seem to make only a limited contribution in promoting environmental oriented and sustainable behaviour. In sustainability literature, the effect of socio-psychological factors (values, Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships, attitudes, norms etc.) on human behaviour has been much emphasised. However, there is little knowledge on the socio-psychological factors in the field of energy behaviour. In particular there is a knowledge gap concerning the effect energy policies might have on people’s socio-psychological factors that according to literature play a crucial role to enhance a long-lasting behavioural change.

Project objectives
In my PhD project I study human behaviour within the complex system of energy governance, in order to contribute to a better understanding how to accelerate transitions towards more sustainable energy behaviour. It is the aim to provide a holistic understanding why people behave in society the way they do. The social context in which this behaviour occurs is as important as the performance and influence of incentives and institutions. I focus on the interdependences between governance strategies and the motivation (socio-psychological factors) individuals have to change their energy behaviour.

Project design
I explore the example of two entirely different photovoltaic governance approaches: stimulating individual versus collective engagement in photovoltaic projects. Both study cases in Austria and the Province of Bolzano/South Tyrol (Italy) involve individual engagement; citizen solar power plants can only be found in Austria. Moreover, financial support in Austria is moderate compared to the huge subsidy granted in Italy until July 2013. In the empirical research I combine several variables and research approaches. On the basis of multi-disciplinary theories a mixed methods design is applied to investigate the following questions:
1. How does the energy behaviour differ between those who engage in individual and those in collective photovoltaic investments?
2. How do different governance approaches to promote photovoltaics influence the motivation of respondents to change their energy behaviour (Austria versus South Tyrol)?
3. Which values and Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships do individuals in each case hold (individual versus collective)?
4. What are the effects of economic incentives on values and Concepts of Human-Nature Relationships (Austria versus South Tyrol)?
Empirical social research; Environmental sociology; Regional research;
Energy governance; Energy behaviour; Human-Nature Relationship; Values;

Muhar, A; Penker, M; Flint, C; Tucker, C (2015): Human-nature relationship concepts in the governance of socio-ecological systems in mountain areas.

Mountains of our future Earth, OCT 5-8, 2015, Perth, Scotland, UK

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