Many studies indicate that women are more likely than men to support strong climate policies (e.g. European Commission 2009), as well as reject nuclear power (Borgstedt, Reusswig & Christ 2010; Marktforschung.de 2011) and take ethics and fairness into account in their decisions regarding consumption (Schultz & Stiess 2009). The available data suggests that women are therefore “predestined” to opt for green electricity. In reality, however, this is not necessarily true, given that making the change to green power is often made difficult by a number of factors, such as a lack of information on whether and how to change, as well as confusion about the supposed price of green electricity and concern about supply gaps, fuelled by the public debate about shortages and price increases caused by the phase-out of nuclear energy. This is subsequently reflected in the still relatively small number of households that change to a green energy provider or even a green energy tariff.
Against this backdrop, the research project examined the motivations and barriers faced by women in regards to changing to green power and subsequently considered interventions which could encourage and enable them to take this step.
This was done on the basis of the following hypotheses:
Women are predestined to choose green power as a result of their firm rejection of nuclear power (“Do-it-yourself nuclear phase out”);
Women tend to prefer different information channels to men, which is why the information on how to change power sources is less likely to reach them;
The qualitative assessment of green power options is made difficult by the non-transparent structure of the electricity market and the different labels that are used, creating a barrier which can prevents a change;
Energy, and especially electricity, is seen as a “masculine” issue which is reflected in the division of labour within homes, and also in the matter of changing energy providers;
The gender pay gap – which means a lower income for women – in connection with higher prices for green power prevent female-headed households from changing to a green energy provider.
The project was conducted in three work packages. In Work Package I – conducted by the Freie Universität Berlin – an internet based survey was used to collect and evaluate information about the motives for a change to green power, as well as the impediments to doing so. Furthermore, 15 qualitative interviews were conducted with different groups of women, in which they were asked what motivated them to change their electricity provider and how they came to their particular choice of provider.
Work packages II and III – conducted by LIFE e.V. – focused on the development of intervention strategies and materials directed at women. Promotors were trained and encouraged to gain further women as future influential actors. The aim of the trainings was to enable the participants to overcome obstacles which might prevent a change to green power and impart them with the necessary knowledge and self-confidence to approach others about this matter.
Motivations behind changing to green power
The most common motivations for changing to green power are a rejection of nuclear power and a desire to protect the environment. The influence on societal developments is also a key factor for women when making this decision. The change can be brought about by talking with acquaintances, moving house or a shocking event.
Who makes the change?
In our clusters from the online survey, it was revealed that the predominately 30-50 year olds have green power; the age groups of those who participated in the trainings were similar, thus confirming the online results. The level of education did not appear to play a role and it is not entirely clear whether income is relevant. Similarly, the role of regional influence in terms of living in the city / country, or in East or West, was also unclear. In comparison, the personal environment seemed to be significant for the change to green power.
Obstacles preventing a change to green power
Convenience and the provision of information are the most relevant barriers for women who do not face financial difficulties and who are environmentally-aware. The complexity of the electricity market can exacerbate this mental blockade. Moreover, a lack of impulses or reminders can also contribute to a failure to make the change to green power.
Furthermore, purchasing green power is not seen as a kind of sustainable consumption that is part of everyday life. The bureaucratic nature of an electricity contract makes it more difficult to act on the decision to change providers – it a process that is seen as unpleasant and is therefore put off. Related to this is the need for a comprehensive body of information so that this decision only has to be made once in a lifetime.
In many households, men are responsible for the electricity, yet women are more likely to have a more strongly developed awareness of environmental issues. Women also seem more willing to pay more for green power than men. This can mean that a male partner might represent an obstacle if he is not supportive of an environmentally friendly approach or is worried about additional costs.
The (possible) higher cost of green power does not tend to be a major obstacle for women when it comes to making the change to green power, with the exception of women with a very low income.
Women prefer conducting personal conversations to receive information and are more likely to trust the experiences of friends rather than power companies, although there is a considerable difference between conventional providers and green providers – the latter are perceived as much more trustworthy.
The internet is a particularly relevant factor for finding information about a change of provider. In this context, providers’ homepages and those of environmental and consumer organisations are important, along with comparison calculators.
Links between gender, socio-economic status and changing providers
A very low socio-economic status can make a change of providers more difficult, given limited financial resources and a lack of time or information. Time shortages play an especially important role for women who face the double burden of housework and paid employment.
Recommendations for communication and interventions
The results of the surveys and initial trials of possible interventions were used to develop a number of recommendations on how to approach women about making the change to green power, how to motivate them and ensure that they are able to follow through with the change. Here is an overview of the resulting content; the full-length recommendations can be found in the reports (see tap material and reports):
- Visualising and remembering to change to green power
- Recommendations for creating new actors
- Recommendations for suppliers of green electricity
- Suggestions for policies and municipalities
- Requirements and recommendations for successful implementation