Database about energy consumption of Austrian households.
Development and empirical validation
A lot of research in the field of energy consumption
in recent years has been focused on technical parameters, such as efficient
use of energy. The social and cultural frame of actions - in market
research often described as lifestyles - gained less attention. However,
linking concepts of lifestyles to patterns of energy use seems very
promising and offers several promising benefits in order to be able
to adequately respond to consumers, to effectively communicate knowledge
and innovations, and to anticipate the energy behaviour of citizens.
The project "Styles of Energy Use" was started to fill this
gap. A representative social survey of 1000 Austrian households was
conducted in 2009 covering all sectors of private energy use (electricity,
heating, mobility). The survey included items which allow to determine
the energy demand in a technical way (number and quality of appliances,
size and thermal quality of housing, etc.), but also behavioural aspects
of energy demand were inquired. Beside socio-economic parameters, questions
concerning values and aesthetic preferences were implemented to determine
social milieus of experience ("Erlebnismilieus"). The statistical
data analysis aimed at testing the relationship between patterns of
energy use and lifestyles in order to develop and describe "styles
of (Austrian) energy use" (SEU). The empirically validated SEUs
provided fruitful insights into the energetically relevant behaviour
of the Austrian population. These insights were discussed with high
level energy and communication experts in order to discuss policy and
Social milieus of experience ("Erlebnismilieus")
1: Topics of the questionnaire's items
The concept of social milieus of experience was developed as a theoretical
construct. Based on cultural studies in Germany in the early 1990s,
Schulze (2005) defined three schemata: the Perfektionsschema (schema
of perfection), the Trivialschema (schema of triviality), and the Spannungsschema
(schema of excitement). The three schemata serve as a basis for the
five social milieus of experience defined by Schulze (2005), which were
validated and adapted for Austria by the Austrian Gallup Institute Karmasin
(Karmasin Motivforschung, oD). The Austrian version of the "Erlebnismilieus"
clusters four types of lifestyles (milieus): Niveau- (niveau), Harmonie-
(harmony), Unterhaltungs- (entertainment) and Selbstverwirklichungsmilieu
(self-fulfilment). The typologies are based on questions about leisure
activities, values and preferences in media and music. The main characteristics
of the four milieus are described in Table 2.
The survey comprised of 109 questions which can be assigned to different
topics as shown in table 1.
The statistical data analysis aimed at testing the relationship between
patterns of energy use and lifestyles in order to finally develop and
describe "styles of (Austrian) energy use" (SEU), using variance
analyses of SPSS.
The comparison between the four Austrian social milieus of experience
(Selbstverwirklichungsmilieu (SM), Harmoniemilieu (HM), Niveaumilieu
(NM), Unterhaltungsmilieu (UM)) mainly built on energy demands per capita
in kWh. These quantitative data on energy demand were generated by combining
the answers to the questionnaire with average numbers of energy demand
The table below shows the main characteristics of each milieu in regard
to values, socio-economics and energy use.
2: Main characteristics of Erlebnismilieus: values derived from Schulze,
2005 and Karmasin, nd; other characteristics are results from the analysis
Similar energy demands across
the population groups
The surprising finding is that despite these different patterns the
total energy demand does not differ significantly between the social
milieus of experience. It lays at 11.000 to 12.000 kWh per person and year. Thus,
different patterns of energy use finally result in similar energy demands,
as can be seen in figure 1, which depicts the calculated energy demand
per person and year in the social milieus of experience. The most energy-intensive
sectors are mobility with the private car and heating. Mobility and
heating account for 73 to 87% of total energy demand. Public transport,
hot water and lighting only make up about 1% each (though hot water
seems to be underestimated due to calculation method, energy demand
for cooking probably is overestimated). Energy for air trips explains
about the same amount of energy demand as electricity for electrical
1: Average energy demand per capita and year for the four Milieus of
Experience; NM: Niveaumilieu, HM: Harmoniemilieu, SM: Selbstverwirklichungsmilieu,
The results include a few key facts as follows:
- Particularly poor and elder households (Harmoniemilieu) possess
electrical appliances of low energy efficiency and live in badly isolated
dwelling places. Those households, however, use fewest appliances,
hardly fly, and drive very little.
- Young behaviour (Unterhaltungs- and Selbstverwirklichungsmilieu)
is characterized by high mobility: Frequent air travels, highest private
car mileage per year, and frequent use of public transportation can
be seen as indicators for high mobility. As young households hold
rather high numbers of electrical appliances which are frequently
used, potential energy-savings through the usage of energy-efficient
appliances are neutralized.
- Elder households (Niveau- and Harmoniemilieu) exhibit major living
spaces and predominantly live in detached houses. Thus, their demand
for heat energy is generally high. Those population groups do not
show any differences related to the thermal quality of their residences.
- Population groups that care for efficiency do not have a lower energy
demand. Energy efficiency is in all sectors counteracted by augmented
usage or augmented ownership. This finding supports the hypothesis
that technical energy efficiency rather leads to a rebound effect
than to an absolute decrease in energy demand.
In order to contribute to effective energy savings, it is thus important
to take adequate political action and apply accordant communication
strategies. Based on the statistical results and a workshop with stakeholders
in December 2009, guidelines were elaborated which aim at reducing the
energy consumption of private households:
- Focusing solely on energy efficiency will not be sufficient in
order to achieve energy savings.
- Political actions for motivating private households to save energy
need to be manifold and need to consider various perspectives.
- Elder and poorer households need assistance regarding the transition
to energy efficient appliances.
- Thermal improvement of residential buildings needs to be further
pushed. However, concepts are required in order to hinder rebound
effects (e.g. growing living space while improving thermal insulation).
The argumentation for thermal insulation should rather focus on money
and comfort, not on environmental issues.
- Intense mobility (private cars, flights) largely contributes to
an increase in energy consumption of private households. Measures
which aim at reducing the energy consumption need to focus more on
this sector. Integrated approaches have to be elaborated which also
take living structure and the related mobility into account.
If you are interessted in the database or for further information
please contact Lisa
This work was funded under "Neue Energien 2020" programme
of the Austrian climate and energy fund.
Schulze, G. (2005). Die Erlebnisgesellschaft. Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart
(2. Auflage). Frankfurt.
Karmasin Market Research, (nD). Karmasin Motivforschung, Erlebnismilieus.