Smart thermostats generate residential thermal energy savings of up to 10%. But in Europe they are not becoming widespread very quickly. In order to better understand the barriers facing the adoption of these systems, three Grenoble Ecole de Management professors conducted an online survey of 5,500 people from eight European countries. At the end of this article, we'll hear what their recommendations are.
This study is part of the European CHEETAH project. The data was collected in 2018 from eight countries in Southern, Northern, Eastern, and Western Europe, which together account for a total of 80% of the European Union's population. This means a representative sample of 600 to 700 people per surveyed country.
Firstly, it should be noted that in Europe, the residential sector emits 40% of CO2 emissions, 20% of which are emitted by residential heating. Fitting a smart thermostat - which costs around €100 - can generate energy savings of up to 10% on an individual basis, without comprising on comfort.
The Discrete Choice Experiment Method
"Our methodology was based on the discrete choice experiment (DCE)," emphasizes Corinne Faure, a professor and researcher at GEM, who co-authored this online study with Marie-Charlotte Guetlein and Joachim Schleich, all three of whom teach and research at GEM in the field of energy. In the choice experiment, people are exposed to smart thermostats with different features: temperature display, remote control via a smartphone, subsidy grants to encourage people to install one, energy efficiency improvement... "Thanks to this method, we were able to observe the most important choice criteria as well as the trade-offs between these criteria," continues Corinne Faure.
Subsidies Have an Impact
The first observation is that the individuals who are most concerned about environmental issues will also be the most interested in this type of equipment, given the energy savings that is makes possible. Another observation is that public subsidies, or subsidies from energy suppliers, incentivize people to install one of these devices. Next up are incentives related to temperature display and remote data control.
Obstacles to Using the Device According to User Profiles
"The question of data privacy, data processing, and private data ends up, is key in the decision whether or not to install a smart thermostat," underlines Corinne Faure. "On the other hand, the notion of 'loss of control' and autonomy in managing room temperature does not seem to be a hindrance."
It is worth noting that, among the user profiles, technology enthusiasts are more attracted to the technical features of smart thermostats, while environmentally-conscious individuals focus on the consequent energy savings.
- "The issue of data privacy is a decisive obstacle and manufacturers must provide more information on this in order to guarantee protection. That being said, this obstacle remains irrational when you look at the applications that everyone is willing to download on their smartphone," Corinne Faure reveals.
- "Grants encourage installation: In France, EDF had deployed a scheme offering help to households wanting to install smart thermostats.
- The actions of purchasing advisors and energy experts are also incentives: the State, ADEME (The French Environment and Energy Management Agency) etc. have a decisive role to play in the adoption of these systems because they are representatives who seem credible", says Corinne Faure.
- On the other hand, word of mouth has very little influence on the decision to purchase a smart meter, because the ownership rate in France, for example, is very low, at around 15%."
It should be noted that a recent study forecasts a growth rate of around 10% per year in Europe for this type of device. Using the adoption rate from a 2018 study which was set at around 20% (15% in France), this would mean that, in 2021, the ownership rate in Europe is around 25% (20% in France).