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HKUST Public Policy Bulletin Issue No.6

Social Influence and Economic Intervention Policies that Reduce Energy Consumption:

Evidence from Air-conditioning Use


Constantine Spandagos, Erik Baark  and Masaru Yarime



In 2020, air conditioners consumed 31% of total electricity use in Hong Kong (EMSD, 2022) and electricity generation accounted for 60.4 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions (EPD, 2022). Therefore, policies that encourage energy savings in air-conditioner use are critical if the city wishes to achieve carbon neutrality. Nevertheless, successful policy interventions must be cost-effective and socially acceptable to incentivize energy-saving behaviors (Cialdini, 2007). This bulletin introduces a paper by Spandagos (2021) that identifies factors that determine the effectiveness of various policy interventions designed to curb residential air-conditioning energy consumption through a case study set in Hong Kong.


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    Constantine Spandagos received his PhD in Civil Engineering-Energy Technology from HKUST. He is currently Assistant Professor of Sustainable Energy Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is specialized in the energy-society interface. His research has been published in top journals such as Applied Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, and Journal of Cleaner Production. Recently, his research bridges disciplines such as engineering, economics, and psychology to develop policy frameworks that improve the effectiveness and social acceptability of sustainable energy innovations.




    Erik Baark is Professor Emeritus in the Division of Social Science at HKUST. His research interests include innovation systems, science and technology policy in China and other East Asian countries, and innovation policy in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. His research on China centers on analyzing information systems, IT development, and high-technology entrepreneurship during recent policy reforms. His papers have been published in leading journals such as Research Policy and The International Journal of Technology Management.




    Masaru Yarime is Associate Professor in the Division of Public Policy (PPOL) at HKUST. His research interests center on science, technology, and innovation policy for energy, the environment, and sustainability. He is particularly interested in exploring the structure, functions, and evolution of innovation systems involving stakeholders in various sectors. Recently he has been exploring the policy and institutional implications of data-driven innovation such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and smart cities for addressing sustainability challenges, including climate change, energy transitions, and the circular economy.


    Further reading

    Spandagos, C., Baark, E., Ng, T. L., & Yarime, M. (2021). Social influence and economic intervention policies to save energy at home: Critical questions for the new decade and evidence from air-condition use. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 143, 110915.