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Task 24 - Closing the Loop - Behaviour Change in DSM, From Theory to Policies and Practice

Synopsis | Introduction | Background | Objectives | Benefits | Subtasks | Deliverables | Participation | Contacts | Publications


The IEA DSM Programme has initiated work to focus on the complexities of human energy-using behaviour. Experts from participating countries will begin to unravel these complexities in order to access the large end user behaviour change potential for DSM programmes. Only once the ‘loop’ between behaviour change researchers, funders, policymakers, DSM implementers, and energy end users is closed will this potential be realised.


Governments around the world struggle with achieving their targets towards developing a more sustainable energy system. There is now a growing international realisation that technological development will not be sufficient to meet those targets. Energy efficiency and energy conservation have gained renewed interest due to climate convention commitments and the rising concerns about prices and security of supply of imported fuels. They are the cheapest, fastest and most feasible way to meet climate change mitigation and pollution targets, mitigate impacts from resource constraints (peak oil and load), and improve health, comfort and energy security and affordability.

It is estimated that up to 30% of energy demand is locked in the so-­called ‘behavioural wedge’. This ‘wedge’ includes people’s energy-­using habits, as well as their purchasing  decisions of energy (in)efficient technologies. The best ideas, policies, and programmes have failed again and again in achieving a lasting reduction of energy consumption. This ‘market failure’ of energy efficiency is often due to the vagaries of human behaviour and choice. Therefore, we believe that a better understanding of human behaviour in energy use is key to achieving a transition to a sustainable energy system.

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DSM aims at releasing the vast potential for cost-efficient energy efficiency that is locked in on the demand side (ie with the energy user). Releasing this potential however, proves very challenging, for various reasons. Several issues are crucial in harnessing this potential and this proposal aims at tackling these issues.

One of the main challenges is that humans are often still regarded as economically rational actors whose behaviours can be influenced by fiscal incentives and information provision alone. However, the complexities influencing human behaviour are so vast and manifold that such simplistic approaches almost invariably fail. It is imperative to uncover the context-specific factors (from infrastructure, capital constraints, values, attitudes, norms, culture, tradition, climate, geography, education, political system, legislature, etc) that influence human behaviour, and design DSM interventions accordingly.

In addition, there are a large variety of research disciplines that endeavour to study human behaviour (social and environmental psychology, environmental and behavioural economics, anthropology, science technology studies, practice and innovation diffusion theory etc), each with their own models and frameworks, advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, they usually do not communicate well - not with each other and not with the end users of their research - the policymakers and DSM programme designers and implementers. This leads to confusion and lack of context-specific programme or policy design that is based on the best behavioural information or models.

Another crucial issue relates to monitoring, understanding, learning about and adapting initiatives in a more systematic manner. DSM projects demonstrate great diversity of goals, scope, participants, resources, etc to meet the diversity of implementing environments. As a consequence, developing a generic evaluation and monitoring framework that is widely applicable and does justice to this diversity is difficult. However, there is a real and urgent need for more appropriate and effective monitoring, evaluation and learning of successful DSM implementation.

The fact that there is little robust and concrete evidence on the contribution of DSM to a more sustainable energy system is not helpful when trying to garner support and demonstrate value to investors, policymakers and other relevant actors – especially when different actors are likely to be interested in different contributions and outcomes. Currently, DSM policymakers and other relevant stakeholders fund and/or support DSM programmes on a rather ad-hoc basis because they lack the means of assessing their impact on contributing towards a more sustainable energy system.

In conclusion, there is no behaviour change silver bullet, like there is no technological silver bullet. Designing the right programmes and policies that can be measured and evaluated to have achieved lasting behaviour and social norm change is difficult. However, we believe that the time is ripe to bring together the world's experts in research, policy and DSM implementation and share learnings, best practice and knowledge. Collaboration is often the key to better results, and this area of energy research is more dependent on collaboration and knowledge sharing than any other.

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The main objective of this project is to create a global expert network and design a framework to allow policymakers, funders of DSM programmes, researchers and DSM implementers to:

  • Create and enable an international expert network interacting with countries’ expert networks
  • Provide a helicopter overview of behaviour change models, frameworks, disciplines, contexts, monitoring and evaluation metrics
  • Provide detailed assessments of successful applications focusing on participating/sponsoring countries’ needs (smart meters, SMEs, transport, built environment (in particular, refurbishment and/or renovations)) 
  • Create an internationally validated monitoring and evaluation template
  • Break down silos and enable mutual learning on how to turn good theory into best practice

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This new task of the IEA-DSM Implementing Agreement is aimed at developing a framework that clearly links behaviour change research theory with successful policy implementation and outcome evaluation. Incorporating solid behaviour change understanding into policymaking and programme design will result in a variety of co-benefits:
  • Increased energy security
  • Peak load management
  • Reduced need for new electricity generation and fossil fuels
  • Monetary savings
  • Achieving climate change, emission and pollution reduction targets
  • Improved health and comfort
  • Social cohesion and bottom-up community engagement
  • Role-modelling of individual and corporate responsibility
Why participate in this task?
  • Know how and why to prioritise behaviour change research and DSM implementation
  • Share best practice and learnings and build strong international expert network utilising state-of-the-art social media tools
  • Prove ongoing, lasting success and long-term behaviour change from DSM policies and programmes with an evaluation tool that is based on stakeholder needs
  • Design policies and programmes that better suit the national context to with the right DSM interventions, based on country-specific to do's and not to do's
  • Build capability of multi-disciplinary research networks and better collaboration with research end users
  • Increase ability to secure funding for DSM research and programmes
  • Achieve better DSM interventions to improve energy system security, and climate targets

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The Task is broken into six distinct subtasks, which follow a logical structure from 1) behavioural research theory; to 2) DSM best practice, case studies and learnings; 3) ongoing outcome evaluation of actual changes in energy-­using behaviours and 4) direct recommendations for participating countries including action plans of turning theory into practice (via task extension).

Subtask 0 -­ Task Management
  • Overall project coordination and management, including contact relationship management
  • Attendance of ExCo meetings, conferences and reporting to IEA DSM ExCo
  • Set-up Task Advisory Board (AB) of stakeholders (ExCo, IEA, intermediaries from research, industry, government, community sectors)
Subtask I -­ Helicopter Overview of Models, Frameworks and Disciplines
  • Identify the range of behavioural models, frameworks and disciplines that have relevant insight into human behaviour and energy demand side management in a variety of end-­use sectors.
  • Understand the benefits of applying different models/approaches/frameworks to different contexts (target group, targeted behaviour, country, scale, technology, timing etc).
  • Identify monitoring and evaluation metrics that have been used in behaviour change programmes.
Subtask II -­ In-depth Analysis of Case Studies
  • Develop a template for analysing selected case studies with special focus on stakeholder-dependent definitions of successful outcomes of behaviour change interventions
  • Collect 3-5 exemplary DSM cases per participating countries (linked to the above identified selected topics)
  • Make a country- and sector-specific inventory of all contextual factors influencing the effectiveness of the selected DSM programme topics
  • Identify key approaches to solving, circumventing or using contextual issues on the local, regional and national level and share learnings and best practice
Subtask III -­ Evaluation Tool
  • To develop a practical, context-specific monitoring and evaluation tool for DSM projects and programmes, with the specific aim to meet various stakeholder needs for outcome evaluation. This tool will be developed to match with the monitoring and evaluation analysis of the topics of particular interest to participating countries (Subtask 2).
Subtask IV -­ Recommendations and Guidelines
  • Development of country specific:
    •  to do’s and not to do’s for the particular topics of interest identified in ST 2.1
    •  research priorities in participating countries
    •  pilot project ideas/action plans for participating countries (to be put into practice if
    task extension is approved)
  • Disseminating these guidelines
Subtask V - Expert Platform
  • Design, develop and run social media expert platform

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This task has 6 specific deliverables outlined in the workplan:
  • D0: Advisory committee of stakeholders from ExCo, IEA, research, commercial, community, policy and end user sectors providing strategic guidance.
  • D1: Database and/or Wiki of all experts, collected case studies, best practice, models, frameworks, definitions, contexts, evaluation metrics, references etc.
  • D2: A ‘report’ of which the final format is yet to be finalised with the experts. Most likely it will be highly interactive, easy to access and comprised of easily understandable formats such as infographics, podcasts, webinars, Pecha Kucha slideshows, youtube videos, TED talks etc.
  • D3: Surveys and post-evaluation of detailed case studies topics of particular interest to participating countries. The exact format for this deliverable will be decided upon with the participating countries to ensure the best possible format for different types of stakeholders. The case studies will be fed into the database/Wiki to be developed in the first Subtask. 
  • D4: Tool to evaluate ‘successful outcomes’ of DSM programmes for a variety of stakeholders (political, policy, community, industry, end user). 
  • D5: To do’s and not to do’s, priority research areas and ideas for pilots and/or action research projects for participating countries and stakeholders.
  • D 6: Social media expert platform and meeting place for (invited) DSM and behaviour change experts and implementers. This platform will include a wide range of social media tools to foster greatest ability to interact, share and discuss. Experts can upload blogs, videos, photos, documents, slides and their biographies. They can chat, start groups and discussion fora, invite other experts and tweet or facebook from the site. It is meant to provide a ‘matchmaking’ service to enable trans-national, inter-disciplinary teams of experts and end users to collaborate and bid for funding. This platform may in future be hosted on the DSM-IA Task XXIV website. It’s current web address is If you'd like to become a member on the expert platform, email 

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Article on Green Growth
[346 kb]
 In 2013, we wrote an article on Task 24 for Green Growth magazine...
Batey and Mourik IEPPEC paper
[844 kb]
 Matt Batey (Belgian expert) and Ruth Mourik wrote a paper for the IEPPEC 2014 conference proceedings....
Definitions for Task 24
[2443 kb]
 Following expert feedback at the Oxford 2012 workshop, we developed, in collaboration with our Task 24 experts, a set of definitions to be used for this Task....
ESCo Facilitators 5 page summary
[192 kb]
 We were asked by another Task 16 on Energy Service Contracts to write a report on and for ESCo Facilitators. This paper focuses on possible solutions and practical guidance for (Project) Facilitato...
Full Report ESCo Facilitators
[423 kb]
 We were asked by another Task 16 on Energy Service Contracts to write a report on and for ESCo Facilitators. This paper focuses on possible solutions and practical guidance for (Project) Facilitato...
Initital paper on theoretical underpinning for Task 24
[182 kb]
 This was the paper outlining the theoretical underpinning of Task 24. The work plan was based on this paper after discussing with experts and ExCo from participating countries....
Minutes from Kick-off workshop Brussels
[823 kb]
 These were the minutes from the first Task 24 workshop in Brussels, September 2012...
Minutes from the last Task 24 workshop in Graz 2014
[1977 kb]
 These minutes were taken in the last Task 24 (Phase 1) workshop in Graz, October 2014....
Positioning Paper for Oxford Workshop
 This positioning paper details the thinking for approaching Subtask 1, based on knowledge developed during the Brussels workshop in September 2012. Note that the Oxford workshop, for which this positi...
Subtask 2 analysis - New Zealand PowerCo Smart House trial
[2227 kb]
 This is the in-depth case study of Subtask 2 - the New Zealand PowerCo Smart House trial which looks at new technology and tariff systems to change end user behaviours. The particular emphasis of this...
Subtask 2 analysis - Norway's Finnfjord case study
[797 kb]
 This is the fascinating case study of a small, family-owned Norwegian ferro-silicon smelter and its ambitious journey to become the world's first carbon neutral smelter. It forms part of our SME domai...
Subtask 2 analysis - Sweden
[1776 kb]
 This is the Swedish case study analysis for Subtask 2 on the Stockholm Congestion Pilot (Transport)....
Subtask 2 analysis - Swiss 2000 Watt Society
[1375 kb]
 This is a very interesting case study on a national vision for every household and business moving from 6500 Watt average annual continuous demand per person to the world-wide average of 2000 Watt. It...
Subtask 2 Analysis - The Netherlands
[1027 kb]
 This is the first country in-depth analysis for Subtask 2. Ruth Mourik, the Dutch expert, analysed the Power Matching City pilot project (in the domain smart metering/feedback). Every participating co...
Subtask 3 - Deliverable 3A - "Did you behave as we designed you to?"
[3277 kb]
 This is the second deliverable of Subtask 3 on monitoring and evaluating behaviour change programmes. It is a positioning paper that looks at how different disciplines evaluate behaviour, the many cha...
Subtask 3 - Deliverable 3B "From ‘I think I know’ to ‘I understand what you did and why you did it’"
[2001 kb]
 This is the third and last deliverable for Subtask 3 on Monitoring and Evaluation. It builds on Deliverables 3 and 3A and presents fact sheets for how to use single- and double-loop learning on three ...
Subtask 4 Report New Zealand
[1747 kb]
 This report outlines the guidelines, recommendations, to do's and not to do's for New Zealand stakeholders. It also goes through the different phases of behavioural interventions and our results in ea...
Subtask 4 Report Norway
[2711 kb]
 This report outlines the guidelines, recommendations, to do's and not to do's for Norwegian stakeholders. It also goes through the different phases of behavioural interventions and our results in each...
Subtask 4 Report Switzerland
[1794 kb]
 This report outlines the guidelines, recommendations, to do's and not to do's for Swiss stakeholders. It also goes through the different phases of behavioural interventions and our results in each of ...
Subtask 4 Report the Netherlands
[1721 kb]
 This report outlines the guidelines, recommendations, to do's and not to do's for Dutch stakeholders. It also goes through the different phases of behavioural interventions and our results in each of ...
Task 24 Flyer - Phase 1
[1623 kb]
 The last flyer of Task 24 - Phase 1 summarising our work and main findings to date....
Task 24 paper for eceee summer study 2013
[473 kb]
 This paper was accepted for Panel 1 in the 2013 eceee summer study ( ...
Task 24 paper for ELCAS, Greece 2013
[407 kb]
 This paper was presented by Task 24's Swiss Expert Dr Vicente Carabias-Hütter at the 3rd International Exergy, Life Cycle Assessment, and Sustainability Workshop & Symposium in Nisyros Greece (ELCAS)....
Task 24: Subtask 1 Analysis - Final Report
[32308 kb]
 Task 24: Subtask 1 Analysis - Final Report...
The little monster - Subtask 1 case study storybook
[5779 kb]
 This is the 'teaser' for our 'Monster' report of Subtask 1 analysis of case studies using different models of understanding behaviour in 14 countries and 4 domains....
The Task 24 Extension - Phase 2
[1726 kb]
 This document outlines the extension proposal for Task 24 Phase 2 and its work programme. It is called 'Helping the Behaviour Changers' and focuses on practical applications and field research of our ...
UKERC Meeting Place Oxford workshop report
[430 kb]
 This report is an excellent, in-depth summary of the largest Task 24 report, on October 9-10, 2012 in Oxford....
Final Workplan Task XXIV
[1465 kb]
 This is the final workplan for Task XXIV Closing the Loop - Behaviour Change in DSM: From Theory to Practice. It outlines the objectives, deliverables and responsibilities among participating countrie...
Fifth Task 24 Status Report, Wellington
 Here are the Task 24 Status Reports, as provided biannually to the IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) before meetings....
First Task 24 Status Report March 2013, Trondheim
 Here are the biannual status reports that go to the IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) before each meeting....
Fourth Task 24 Status Report, Luzern
[541 kb]
 Here are the Task 24 Status Reports, as provided biannually to the IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) before meetings....
Second Task 24 Status Update, Espoo
[795 kb]
 This was another Task 24 Status Update report, as given biannually before IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) meetings...
Sixth Task 24 Status Report, Graz
[116 kb]
 Here are the Task 24 Status Reports, as provided biannually to the IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) before meetings....
Third Task 24 Status Update, Utrecht
[650 kb]
 Here are the Task 24 Status Reports, as provided biannually to the IEA DSM Executive Committee (ExCo) before meetings....

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