Working Paper
                                  ISSN No. 2193-7214

                                       CEN Paper
                                       No. 03-2018

         Libertarian paternalistic instruments fostering
             sustainable energy consumption
          An analysis based on energy-efficient LED technology*

          Bianca Blum a; Julian Hübner b; Harald Berger c;
                Bernhard Neumärker d
            * Developed first as a Thesis at the Department of Economic Policy &
                     Constitutional Economic Theory.
          a, b, d Department of Economic Policy & Constitutional Economic Theory,

                     University of Freiburg, Germany.
              c Master Student in Economics, University of Frankfurt, Germany

        E-Mail: bianca.blum@vwl.uni-freiburg.de; julian.huebner@vwl.uni-freiburg.de;

                       March 15th. 2018

University of Freiburg
Institute for Economic Research
Department of Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory
Platz der Alten Synagoge / KG II D-79085 Freiburg

Developed as part of the collaboration project between the University of Freiburg and the
Leistungszentrum Nachhaltigkeit, as well as the partners of the project “Sustainable LED
Lighting - Technologische Herausforderungen, Marktzugangshürden und politische
Akzeptanz (SusLight)“.

Germany and many other countries, like the European Union member states, have
committed themselves to massive reductions of energy consumption in the upcoming years.
By 2020, the German government wants electricity consumption to be reduced by 10
percent compared to 2008. By 2050, consumption is scheduled to be reduced by 25
percent1. A small comparison of facts shows that according to the current state of affairs,
this goal can only be achieved with a major rethinking and behavioral changes in the
population: Germany’s gross electricity consumption in 2008 was approximately 618
terawatt hours and approximately 594 terawatt hours in 20162. This equals savings of only
about 4% within 8 years. The ambitious goal of 10 percent energy reduction in 2020 seems
to recede into the distance.
Significant savings potentials can be found in private households, which require between 15-
20% of total energy consumption in OECD countries. In Germany, this number is even higher
with up to 25% of the total annual energy demand. As sharply rising energy prices in
Germany continue to burden consumers, additional hard or even soft paternalistic
interventions3 by the government are largely unrealizable or can only be implemented with
great resistance.
Despite increasing environmental awareness, people's behavior and actions are not
adjusting in a sustainable way. There are various reasons for this behavior such as a lack of
information or the low priority people attach to energy savings (Steg, 2008). Hirst & Brown
(1990) question the decisions of households when it comes to investing in energy-efficient
solutions. Despite the long-term benefits of these investments, the demand for these
products is still low. They argue that a possible "energy efficiency gap"4 would hinder the
achievement of climate policy goals.
This paper investigates economic policy measures that may contribute to a reduction of the
energy efficiency gap. Since for regulatory reasons governmental interventions should be

1     see     https://www.bundesregierung.de/Webs/Breg/DE/Themen/Energiewende/Fragen-
2   see   https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/256942/umfrage/bruttostromverbrauch-in-
3 Hard Paternalism: governmental requirements and prohibitions (Kirchgässner 2014)

 Soft Paternalism: taxes and subsidies (Kirchgässner 2014)
4 Gerarden et al. (2015:1) definieren diese Lücke “[…]as the apparent reality that some energy-efficiency

technologies that would be socially efficient are not adopted.”
prevented as far as possible, and the discrepancy between people thinking and acting of the
population drifts apart, alternative solutions to minimize the gap are in the discourse.

One of these approaches is based on the latest findings of behavioral economics is the idea
of a libertarian paternalism which was brought up by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
in 2003. Their jointly published book "Nudge: Improving Decisions on Health, Wealth and
Happiness", published in 2008, has met with the utmost popularity in economic policy and
encourages more researchers from all fields to contribute to it. The authors suggest that
people are not always able to make their own optimal decisions, and every now and then
need a "nudge" to help them subconsciously in the decision-making. Particularly in the case
of complex decisions, such as investment decisions, the government sees itself as obliged to
offer assistance to people, in such a way that they are better off after the influenced
decision, setting their own standards as benchmark.

The focus of this paper is the analysis of the extent to which the "energy efficiency gap" can
be closed with the help of this new behavioral economic approach. The light-emitting diode
(LED) will be the main subject of the investigation, as it is extremely energy efficient,
relatively cheap, and the change to LED bulbs is technically very easy to implement for any

In the next section, we will state the theory behind the libertarian paternalism and its
justification. Afterwards, several libertarian paternalistic instruments will be introduced.
Since the literature already contains a broad variety of such instruments, this paper will
focus on those, who delivered robust results in experiments and can be linked with energy
consumption. We conclude this paper in the final section with a summary of the main
findings and a lookout for what is to come.

Theory and justification of libertarian paternalism

The main target of libertarian paternalism is the improvement of the well-being of
inpiduals. This is not achieved by imposition of prohibitions by the governance, but by
trying to influence the decision-making behavior. In doing so, the decision-making

framework is constructed in such a way that human errors are minimized as far as possible,
without restricting the decision-making and freedom of choice of the inpiduals. Sunstein &
Thaler (2011) give a well-known example: in order to promote the health of canteen visitors,
food is placed in such a way that it is eaten as healthy as possible. This was achieved by
placing fruit and salad in front of the unhealthy food. This resulted in significant behavioral
changes. Only on the basis of the constructed decision-making framework, people more
often consumed fruit and salad although sweets and high-calorie food were still an option,
as before.
The actor who develops this design is called the Choice Architect (Sunstein & Thaler, 2011)
and thus has the power to steer decisions in the right direction.

In order to understand the reasons of governmental libertarian-paternalistic interventions, it
is necessary to examine relevant assumptions of the rational choice theory:
The basic assumption of the rational choice theory is that every decision making actor has a
stable and consistent preference order. Preferences are called stable if the preferences for
particular goods are not flexible, are exogenous and that a change in preferences is only
possible if the conditions and restrictions change (Kirchgässner 2000). A consistent
preference order, inducing transitivity, means that each inpidual has a fixed ranking for a
given set of goods. If an inpidual prefers good A over good B, and good B over good C, it
must follow that the inpidual prefers good A over good C.
Another important assumption underlying the rational choice theory is the complete
information of people, which allows the knowledge about every single alternative in
decision-making situations. The resulting consequences can be accurately evaluated. Under
the strict assumptions of the rational choice theory, an inpidual acts rational if it, under
complete information about all environmental conditions and consequences and on the
basis of consistent, selfish and temporally stable preferences, selects the alternative that will
maximize his own expected net benefit, weighing up advantages and disadvantages.
(Neumann 2013).
If these assumptions were applicable in reality, libertarian paternalistic interference of the
governance would not be necessary or justifiable. However, real people have cognitively
limited capacities and only very limited information available in decision-making situations
(e.g. Simon, 1957). Kahneman & Tversky (1974) conducted a large number of experiments to

examine decision-making under uncertainties and incomplete information. In doing so, a
variety of decision making weaknesses were discovered, which in particular violated the
assumptions of the rational choice theory. Incorrect expectations led to wrong cost-benefit
analysis. Information visualization influenced decision-making behavior, which contradicted
the assumption of stable preferences. In addition, the assumption of transitivity was refuted.
Another finding was that inpiduals used heuristics when deciding on uncertainty that did
not necessarily maximize their utility.
Because of these identified distortions in human decision-making, libertarian paternalistic
interventions can be justified. In the further course of this paper, some of those possible
interventions will be presented and explained.

Libertarian paternalistic instruments for the purpose of energy savings
through the usage of LEDs

After discussing the theory, hereinafter selected strategies and instruments of libertarian
paternalism are examined in more detail. It will be shown how these tools can be used to
promote sustainable consumption and provide incentives to invest in energy-efficient LEDs.

Default-Option: The Status Quo Bias

Setting or changing default options can lead to remarkable changes in human decision-
making. The default option is that alternative which is initially given in a decision situation
and which becomes valid if the person concerned does not express the wish for a different
regulation, while at least two alternative courses of action are available (Kirchgässner, 2000).
In this context, assuming the postulate of complete rationality, the decision maker would
choose the option that would benefit him the most, according to rational choice theory
assumptions, regardless of which alternative was set as default by the choice architect. In
reality, however, for convenience or inertia, an inpidual tends to remain in a status quo
state in which it has a propensity not to change his actual state, although an alternative
decision would yield a higher utility level.
This behavioral anomaly which violates the assumption of stable preferences and possibly
the transitivity condition too, is known under the name of “Status Quo Bias” and has been

thoroughly investigated and proven (e.g. Samuelson and Zeckhauser, 1988; Johnson and
Goldstein, 2003). Applied to environmental economics, “green defaults” have been
identified as a possibility to induce a more energy efficient behavior.

In order to illustrate the efficiency of the default option in environmental policy, it is useful
to study the decision-making behavior of the energy market. Daniel Pichert & Konstantinos
V. Katsikopoulus (2008) discuss the effects of defaults when it comes to choosing the
electricity tariff. They hypothesize that the choice of electricity tariff depends on the default
option. The inpidual has the opportunity to select the more expensive "green power"
which originates from renewable energy, or the cheaper "gray power", which draws the
energy from nuclear and coal power plants. According to the authors, the majority will
choose the type of electricity that has already been prescribed as the standard option. Some
indications that their hypothesis could be correct are shown by two real examples.

In the small town of Schönau in southern Germany, after the nuclear catastrophe at
Chernobyl in the 1980s, a referendum on basic energy supply through renewable energies
was enforced (52% vs. 48%, voter turnout 90%) After the liberalization of the German energy
market in 1998, the consumers could have used the opportunity to switch to the energy
supplier and thus they could once again choose between green or gray power. More than
99% of the Schönau residents stuck to the status quo of green power, even 8 years later.

The energy supplier “Energiedienst GmbH” observed a similar phenomenon in 1999. It
persified its one-tariff stream into three tariff groups: expensive premium green electricity,
less expensive green electricity and cheap gray power. They informed their customers in
written form about the conversion, and gave them the opportunity to change the tariff,
whereby the normal green electricity was set as default. Around 94% of customers did not
respond to the letter and were therefore supplied with sustainable energy.

In order to support their thesis and to control for the stability of preferences, Pichert and
Katsikopoulus conducted two laboratory experiments. 225 participants between the ages of
18 and 35 (63% students) were handed a questionnaire5. It described a fictitious scenario:

5  The questionnaire can be found in attachment 1
Participants had to imagine to relocate to another town and to choose between two
electricity providers: Acon, a provider of cheap conventional electricity, and EcoEnergy, a
slightly more expensive supplier, which offers green electricity from renewable energy
sources. Three different versions of the questionnaire were used for the study: In the first
version, the gray power provider was set as the default supplier. Here, 41% of the
participants chose to switch to the green provider. In the second version, where the supplier
of the green electricity was set as default, 68% stayed with the provider. The third version
was neutral and no standard was set. The result was quite similar to those of the second
version with 67% of the participants choosing the eco-friendly green supplier. These
outcomes confirm the authors' thesis, with the affinity of green electricity in the neutral
version suggesting that participants have strong "green" preferences which are distorted
within the "gray" representation of the status quo effect.
Consequently, we can conclude that the assumption of stable preferences is not met in
reality. Libertarian paternalism could therefore be a cost-effective way to internalize
unwanted externalities by "standardizing" green electricity.

Applied to the lighting market, when choosing between a variety of illuminants, the
consumer can be cognitively overwhelmed, and therefore resorts to energy-inefficient
products that are cheaper in the short term, but on the other hand, have a higher energy
consumption and are therefore more expensive in the long term. Is it possible to nudge the
consumer in the right direction by means of a "default option", so that the probability that
he chooses energy-efficient light sources like the LED increases?
Dinner et al. (2011) conducted an experiment in order to answer this question. Two groups
of subjects had the choice between two types of lamps. The 209 participants were presented
the following fictitious scenario: The homes of the subjects are being extensively
modernized and, depending on the presentation of the "default option" (Group 1 or 2),
homes have already been equipped eighteen inefficient low-priced Bulbs (group 1) or
eighteen energy-efficient more expensive energy saving lamps (group 2). Subsequently, the
two groups of subjects were asked whether they would like to keep the bulbs used by the
construction company without further consideration of switching costs or whether they
want to use the other illuminants. Additional information on the characteristics of the lamps
was provided for decision: The conventional light bulb has an expected lifespan of about 850

hours, costing $ 0.50 per piece, and with a total of 10,000 hours operating at 18
incandescent bulbs costs $ 49 annually. The energy-saving lamp, on the other hand, can last
up to 10,000 hours at a price of $ 3 per piece, and states operational costs of $ 11 in
electricity per 10,000 hours of use6.
As in the case of the decision between green and gray energy, the choice of the default
option had a significant influence on the decisions of the participants. 43.8% of the subjects
opted for the classic light bulb if it was already installed (group 1). On the other hand, only
20.2% of the people in the second group opted for the light bulb and preferred their status
quo of the energy saving lamp.
Considering that the LED technology is more energy efficient and offers even more
advantages compared to the energy saving lamp, it can be assumed that the results could
have been even more drastic7.

Deriving from the above examples it can be stated that the default option can be an
effective tool for the decision maker to overcome the inertia that is due to the general
uncertainties, loss aversion8 and endowment effect9. Apart from the general ban on bulbs in
Europe and also in other parts of the world, an LED default option, e.g. being set up by
construction companies, can be efficient, cost effective, and by saving energy contributes to
minimizing CO2 emissions.

Framing Effects

Another way to nudge citizens towards sustainable energy consumption without hard
paternalistic instruments such as bans is to optimize the provision of information - and in
particular its design (Thaler & Sunstein, 2011). As mentioned before, the decision-making
behavior exhibits various anomalies and can be effectively influenced by the choice of

6 See attachment 2.
7 Sallee (2014) confirms that the attention in decision-making is lower when the products are similar. The
LED, as a technically superior product, would further increase the discrepancy, and vice versa, lead to
greater attention, which would rather lead to an investment.
8 The tendency for safe, smaller profits to be preferred over uncertain, larger profits (Kahneman et al.,

9 If the value of a good must be estimated, this value will increase significantly if the inpidual already

possesses the good. This is also referred to as equipment effect or endowment effect (Kahnemann et al

information content, the scope of information and their creative presentation. The different
perception and cognition of signals, information or symbols here influences the subjective
definition of the situation, which represents the frame of the subsequent decision-making
(Neumann, 2013).
Due to the persity of subjects, their information processing in decision-making, and their
use of heuristics, the challenge of the choice architect is to present the optimized
information that minimizes the systematic errors of the inpiduals.

Information provision on packaging of energy-efficient products such as LEDs plays an
important role, especially in the case of a local purchase. Newell & Siikamäki (2013) provide
a study from the USA concerning that matter. They measure the efficiency of various energy
labels as to what extent the labels influence energy-efficient behavior. Helpful conclusions
about the current packing regulations of bulbs can be drawn.
The study observed 1,217 participants which were pided in 12 groups of about 100
subjects each. The participants faced five different choice decisions containing three
different water heaters each. Depending on the label type, different information was
displayed with varying presentation methods. The depicted information regarded purchase
price, annual operating costs, CO2 emissions and operating costs relative to a range of
comparable models10.
The US-American label "EnergyGuide" served as reference for the twelve labels. This label is
mandatory not only for water heaters but also for other devices with high energy
consumption in the US (depicted as first label in Figure 1). It includes the estimated annual
energy cost (here: $ 265), a scale showing the consumption costs of comparable products
(here: $ 196 to $ 380), as well as the physical information of estimated annual therms (1
therm ~ 29.3 kilowatt hours).
Additionally, the Energystar11 (label 8) as well as the European Union energy label (label 12)
were customized and evaluated. The black footprint (label 11) is a reference to the British
standard PAS 2050: 2008, which shows the carbon footprint for this product (here: 2.9
million tons of CO2).

10  See attachment 3.
11  An US Environmental Label awarded for energy-saving products.
Figure 1: labels used in the survey (Newell & Siikamäki, 2013)

The results of this study showed that the sole information on energy savings (i.e. annual
operating costs) was the criterion that motivated participants the most to invest in energy-
efficient products. The physical properties (consumption of kilowatt hours) came in second,
followed by the CO2 emissions. It was also found that in addition to the numerical
information, the logos with recognition features such as the EnergyStar or the European
Union energy label had a significant impact, increasing the choice for more energy efficient
products. Additional information, e.g. the comparative scale of energy costs with
comparable models, had no significant impact.

It can be concluded that an inpidual, when choosing a product, can be significantly
influenced by the amount of information as well as the representation. Too much
information can overwhelm the consumer (Saaty, 2008). Additional colored illustrations on
the other hand facilitate the decision for sustainable consumption. Loewenstein et al. (2014)
therefore see the government as a possible decision-making architect of these labels "[to]
reduce the number of less important disclosures so as to increase the salience of the most
important ones" (Loewenstein et al., 2014: 22).

Applied to the illuminant market, when looking at the current information on the packages
of LED bulbs (see Appendix 6), up to fourteen features are stated. The new regulation No.
2017/1369 of the energy consumption labeling could additionally overwhelm the consumer.

This psychological overstrain due to sensory overload could, according to the theory of
status quo bias (Chapter 2.1), lead to the consumer reaching for a known product that may
be inefficient. The most important information for the consumer, in addition to the purchase
price, is the estimated annual energy costs (Newell & Siikamäki, 2013). Despite the high
significance found, this feature has not been integrated in the EU among the 14 properties
while it is mandatory in the US since 2012.
Comparing two alternatives with this designation as shown in Figure 5 could lead to a more
favorable decision of the consumer. Here, the economic sense of the consumer is being
addressed. With a constant brightness of approximately 800 lumen, the consumer saves $
6.03 in the first year, which already exceeds the difference in the purchase price.

The design of illuminant labeling information could be further optimized in the EU to give
buyers a nudge to invest in energy-efficient LEDs. A recent online study (Rodemeier et al.,
2017) confirms that the LED is still receiving insufficient attention and significantly
underestimated in terms of cost savings potential. As information on lifetime costs
increases, the measured willingness to pay increases according to this study. Although the
1,083 participants knew about the advantages of the LED, they were still insufficiently
informed. However, further field experiments would be necessary to determine to what
extent a change in the current label has a significant influence on the decision-making
behavior of illuminants.

Figure 2: Comparison of displayed information on LED and light bulb packages in the US 12

12http://www.snopud.com/Site/Content/Images/ee/LightingFacts_LED.jpg      and
Time inconsistency and the „energy-efficiency-gap“

In the rational choice theory, future benefits are exponentially discounted in the present
value calculation. The expected present value is calculated as follows:

                     𝑈 𝑡 = ∑ δ 𝑡 ∗ 𝑢 𝑡 (𝑥 𝑡 )

                1  t
with t as time index, δ 𝑡 = (1+i) as discount factor and 𝑢 𝑡 (𝑥 𝑡 ), as utility with respect to x

(Beck, 2014).
Here δ is less than one as future benefits are weighted less than today's. The discount factor
decreases exponentially. The inpidual is e.g. indifferent between a present benefit of 10 (t
= 0) or a benefit of 11 in (t = 1), with a discount factor of ~ 0.909.
Figuratively, this would mean that humans would count today’s “loss” (purchase price of a
light source) against the exponentially discounted increase in utility (energy savings) in the
future – a behavior which would cause an energy efficiency gap as the superior new LED
technology is not fully adopted because of a higher buying price although it would lead to
larger energy savings.

This thesis will be analyzed using the following modified formal-analytical approach by
Allcott (2015).
Consumers have the choice between two light sources with j ∈ {E, I}. Illuminant E is more
energy efficient than I, with energy consumption of 𝑒 𝐸 < 𝑒 𝐼 . The price are depicted as 𝑝 𝑗 ,
the time index is t and the bulbs have a shelf life of T years. The exogenous use of the
product is given with m per use; g stands for the energy costs, and the consumers discount
with the factor δ. The expected total energy costs (G) are therefore as follows:

                    𝐺𝑗 = ∑ δ 𝑡 ∗ 𝑒𝑗 ∗ 𝑚 ∗ 𝑔

                      (Allcott, 2015)
Product j yields a utility of 𝑣 𝑗 . Differences are defined as follows:
𝑝 = 𝑝 𝐸− 𝑝 𝐼 , 𝐺 = 𝐺 𝐸 − 𝐺 𝐼 , 𝑣 = 𝑣 𝐸 − 𝑣 𝐼 .
The homo oeconomicus buys product E only if the net benefit is greater than the relative
purchase price, i. E. v – G > p. Since G < 0, due to the better energy efficiency of E, the left
side of the equation increases, so a higher price of E is accepted due to the cost savings. This
would suggest that for moderate uses m, the exponential discount factor δ, and a price
difference p of around € 2.50, it would be always rational to opt for the more energy
efficient LED.
However, behavioral economics came to different conclusions in reality. Despite the
preferences for saving energy, inpiduals do not always opt for more energy-efficient
options (Steg, 2008).
This happens due to to behavioral anomalies (Allcott, 2015), which will be further
investigated in order to analyze for appropriate economic policy intervention.

Present bias: humans are impatient and prefer to consume immediately rather than gaining
more benefit in the future (Loewenstein, 1996). This is indeed rational as long as the
discounted future utility is not exceeding the possible present utility. However, several
studies (Laibson, 1997) have found that future increases in benefits are heavily discounted
and people have very strong preferences for immediate consumption at a lower utility level.
Figure 3 depicts the comparison between an exponential discounting and a hyperbolic
discounting established by Laibson (1997). This effect is called time inconsistency, as the
inpidual tends to overestimate the current expenses and underestimate future payoffs in
terms of energy savings. It therefore decides only for E if v - ß * G> p, where the bias β is
dependent on its time preference.

          Figure 3: Exponential vs. hyperbolic discounting (Laibson, 1997)

Bias toward concentration: „[…]the bias toward concentration implies that an increase in the
number of periods in which the future costs of current misbehavior are dispersed increases

present bias” (Köszegi and Szeidel, 2012) Future payoffs (here: because of lower energy
costs) are given less attention than today’s costs. Similar to the present bias, this
underestimation is dependent on the bias factor β.

Biased Beliefs: Consumers are not really aware of energy prices and may perceive them as
distorted with φ, so that buying E is only worthwhile if v - φ G <p. If energy prices are
underestimated, buying a conventional light bulb is more likely.
We can conclude that the problem here is that humans do not think far ahead and because
of the dynamic inconsistency, future savings are being neglected.

Another reason for the preference of short-term cost savings in terms of cheaper light bulbs
is in the mental accounting. "Mental accounting is the set of cognitive operations used by
inpiduals and households to organize, evaluate and keep track of financial activities"
(Thaler, 1999).
If an inpidual has no budget for "lighting" in his mental accounting, it will probably only buy
a replacement product if an old light bulb breaks and likely opt for the product that is the
supposedly cheapest. This is also confirmed by a study by Gross & Souleles (2002). They
found that US households have about $ 5,000 in cash, mostly at low interest rates in the
savings account. On the other hand, on average they have $ 3,000 in debt, which must be
paid off at a much higher rate of interest. Many are aware of this, but do not shift the money
between the accounts and thus make losses just because of their mental accounting.

In addition to the provision of information, time inconsistency in the context of energy
saving must also be overcome by a certain degree of self-control, such as mental accounting.
Thaler & Sunstein (2011) name two different sides of the inner self that influence self-
regulation in connection with the self-control.
On the one hand, there is the "planner", who is interested in long-term benefits (e.g. savings
or a healthy BMI). On the other hand, the "doer" prefers the short-term temptations (e.g.
new shoes, chocolate) despite the long-term negative consequences. The struggles between
these two internal mechanisms are carried out on a daily basis, and the temptations that
increase short-term benefits must be resisted. If the "doer" holds the greater power, he will

not be interested in energy savings as it yields few benefits in the short term. Therefore, self-
regulation is important in order to achieve long-term goals and to encourage energy savings.

In order to achieve an efficient self-control, a regular feedback which reminds the consumer
how much electricity is consumed is necessary to adjust the behavior in future decisions.
This is especially important for the element of electricity as it is an intangible product which
is only noticeable on the annual electricity bill. Energy itself is invisible and therefore should
be made visible to the consumer.
There are a variety of studies in different countries where the effectiveness of feedbacks has
been measured. In the study by Gleerup et al. (2010), 1.452 Danish households were
informed by weekly energy consumption feedback via e-mail or text message if their energy
consumption was too high. While this led to a 3% decline in energy consumption, it was not
statistically robust enough. By contrast, a robust result was reported by Gans et al. (2013).
The participants were not informed by e-mail or SMS about their energy consumption, but
could track their current energy consumption in real time on a home-in-display. This resulted
in savings of up to 18% and was highly significant. Other studies also show highly variable
results, depending on method, sample size, short and long term outcomes.
The underlying technical implementation of real-time consumption controls are smart
meters, an electricity meter that can send the consumption data over the wireless network
and thus can be received from anywhere. The large-scale roll-out of these devices will take
place e.g. in Germany over the next few years and can be seen as a libertarian paternalistic
intervention when a mandatory smart meter can be considered technological advancement.

Considering the results of the above mentioned studies, we can assume that if households
can realize their current consumption via an app and thereby analyze the resulting costs,
they will pay more attention to potential (energy and cost) savings. It would be easier to set
and control one's own goals (effective self-regulation). The motivation to achieve cost
savings could lead to investments in energy-efficient products like the LED. The time
inconsistency and thus the underestimation of future energy savings could thus be

Social influences

Another major influence which leads inpiduals in decision-making situations to not only
include the subjective cost-benefit analysis is the behavior and actions of other people from
the inpidual’s social environment. Observations about other’s behavior are subtly
incorporated into the social-cognitive processing, and by comparison with other inpiduals,
the alternatives are re-weighted. In this context the assessment of what is socially desirable
is of great importance (Neumann, 2013). An inpidual’s choice is therefore highly
dependent on what the decision maker thinks and supposes about social norms. Therefore,
social influences provide potential to raise awareness and attention for sustainable energy

In this context, Schultze et al. (2007) conducted a field experiment with 290 households in
California. The research team informed households on a bi-weekly basis how much energy
they had consumed (in kWh) in recent weeks. In addition, the researchers pided the
households into two groups. Group 1 got additional information about the average power
consumption of other households in addition to its own consumption so they knew whether
they consumed below or above average energy. This information is cited by Cialdini et al.
(1991) a "descriptive norm" information that does not require any additional evaluation. In
the second group, households received a smiling emoticon in addition to this descriptive
norm information when they consumed below average power or a sad emoticon when their
energy consumption was above-average. This rating emoticon is called an "injunctive norm",
which is intended to be a social endorsement or disapproval.

When looking at the results, it comes clear why descriptive norms alone may not lead to the
desired outcome. Households in Group 1, which previously had above-average consumption,
reduced their consumption by 1.22 kW / h per day while households which consumed
below-average energy increased their consumption in the following days. This negative
effect of social comparison is also referred to as “boomerang effect”.
In Group 2, the energy consumption was reduced even more than in group 1 due to the
extra smiley (1.72 kWh/day reduction). In addition, the boomerang effect could be

significantly reduced with the help of simple emoticons. These results remained robust over
the long term (Figure 4).

      Figure 4: Results of the field experiment in short and long term (Schultze et al., 2007)

We can derive several conclusions from these findings and apply them for the lighting
It seems possible to encourage people to behave more energy efficient with a relatively
simple social comparison, but we need to keep in mind that interpersonal comparisons can
also cause negative effects, such as the boomerang effect. Although this negative effect can
be reduced by socially approving information, it is a challenge to neutralize it completely.

If households restrict their energy consumption as consequence of a social comparison, an
increase in the motivation to prematurely replace the old energy-inefficient lighting with
LEDs may come along. More importantly, energy efficiency needs to penetrate people's
consciousness in order to create a new social standard for energy efficiency. The German
government is already utilizing liberal paternalism with information campaigns such as the
"Deutschland macht’s effizient" campaign in order to raise public awareness. But an
increased investment in new technologies such as LEDs seems only achievable if
interpersonal communication concerns relevant related topics like potential energy savings.

Another social leverage point for energy efficient behavior can be found in social
The homo oeconomicus is primarily interested in maximizing its self-interest. The game
theory approach of the Prisoner's Dilemma confirms that an inpidual’s best decision can be
non-cooperation, although cooperation would lead to a better outcome (e.g. Kreps et al.,
1982). Inpidual rationality could therefore lead to collective irrationality, which can e.g.
prevent the provision of public goods, although the provision would raise everyone’s utility.
An exogenous governmental intervention would be necessary to solve this market failure.
Empirically, however, self-implementing cooperations can be found in reality. Ostrom (2000)
attempts to explain this using an evolutionary approach. The author distinguishes between
"rational egoists", who are particularly successful when no information is available, and
"norm using players", who behave cooperatively. Under perfect information, the norm using
players could easily sanction egoists and thus prevent other inpiduals from behaving that
way. We consider the existence of both types and additionally a hybrid form, wherein:
„[…]modern humans have inherited a propensity to learn social norms, similar to our
inherited propensity to learn grammatical rules[…]. Social norms are shared understandings
about actions that are obligatory, permitted, or forbidden […].Which norms are learned,
however, varies from one culture to another, across families, and with exposure to perse
social norms expressed within various types of situations“ (Ostrom, 2000).

Important for our analysis is how the "norm using players" were pided into two different
types: "conditional cooperators", who have strong affinity to invest in the common good of
the group. They are trustworthy, but disappointed when other group members do not
contribute. The second subgroup, "willing punishers" have a willingness to pay to sanction
other members of the group if they do not contribute to the common good. This finding of
the "willing punishers" was reported by Sääksvuori et al. (2011) again in further laboratory
experiments examined. The 288 participants were pided into different treatment groups.
In 30 rounds, subjects had the option of depositing funds either on their own account or in
the group account. The amount of the group account was doubled after each round, and
pided among the group members. The decision to deposit money exclusively on one's own
account was only of use to egoists and hurt the success of the group. In three of the five
treatments it was possible to sanction the rationalists with point reductions, which also
meant a reduction of points for the inpidual who assigns the penalty. Additionally, in three
treatments, the groups were in direct competition: the group with the highest community
account at the end of the game wins.

The results of this laboratory experiment have revealed that competition between groups
led to a significantly higher amount of group members willing to punish other group
members for self-serving behavior, although at the same time this meant personal loss.
Competition can influence the behavior of all inpiduals involved. This incentive mechanism
can lead to a rethink that could also work in the context of saving energy. If power
consumption was instantly measurable with smart meters and there was e.g. a smartphone
app that would measure the current power consumption of all districts in a city, a virtual
competition could be started here. The district with the highest energy savings could e.g.
receive an award. If this incentive causes citizens to suffer short-term losses in terms of
investment in energy-efficient products to support the group (neighborhood), this could be a
way to further promote LED sales without interfering with inpidual choice options.


We localized and analyzed the instruments of libertarian paternalism in the environmental
context on the basis of the current state of research. We furthermore examined whether the
associated behavioral changes had a significant (long-term) influence on the energy-
efficiency gap in order to meet the government's energy saving goals.
The results have shown that sustainable energy consumption can be promoted through
liberal paternalistic interventions, specifically targeting people's decision-making biases and
weaknesses that would lead to suboptimal consequences. The use of the default option
instrument, which addresses the human weakness of inertia and convenience, has proven to
be particularly effective by stimulating the environmental consciousness within the
preferences of inpiduals concealed by the status quo effect. This tendency to status quo
was detected in inpidual’s illuminant buying decisions and therefore a sustainable default
option like the LED promises positive results.

The framing effect has also revealed the attention deficit due to limited cognitive capacity of
inpiduals. The decision-making results in the study of the various designed labels of high
energy consumption products have confirmed that human beings are especially attentive to
colorized labels and to labels containing monetary information. If annual energy costs are
easy to compare, investment in energy efficient products is more likely. Here, the LED
packaging regulations, which show no comparison of consumption costs, could be re-
visualized by the EU.
The formal-analytical approach to the problem of time inconsistency identifies several
human weaknesses. It points out that humans cannot objectively assess short-term costs
and long-term payment returns (energy cost savings). Humans rate today's benefits much
higher than future benefits which are heavily discounted. One way to overcome this
weakness is a better provision of information about the long-term benefits of e.g. LEDs.
Furthermore, interventions can be based on feedback in support of self-regulation. In
particular, a mandatory installation of smart meters could be helpful to improve the self-
control of inpiduals.
Another identified possibility of intervention is based on the idea of social influence.
Households showed significant positive behavioral changes based on simple energy
consumption comparisons. Using a game theory approach, it was also possible to show how
social influences can affect consumer behavior, which could be useful promote the
investment in LEDs in a broader sense.
It is doubtful that the energy saving targets can still be achieved by 2020. The government
still has some leeway to "nudge" people in the direction of sustainable energy consumption..
The importance of investing in energy-efficient products, such as the LED as a future-
oriented light source, plays an important role in closing the energy efficiency gap.
But it is not only important that the government provides the people with assistance in
decision-making. Every inpidual itself should to do something good for the environment of
their own free will. And if the government can kick-start such behavior without limiting
inpiduals' freedom of choice, libertarian paternalism is an adequate instrument to promote
the energy transition.


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Attachment 1: (Pichert und Katsikopoulos, 2008)

Attachment 2: (Dinner et al., 2011)

Attachment 3: (Newell & Siikamäki, 2013)