Kim Wolske, Annika Todd, Michael Rossol, James McCall, Benjamin Sigrin
Household adoption of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from electricity generation. High upfront costs, however, are often a barrier to adoption, even when costs may be offset by future energy savings. Through a series of randomized experiments, we examine whether framing strategies grounded in behavioral economics and psychology can be used to increase the financial appeal of such products. Using mock ads for residential solar photovoltaics (PV), we test four frames: gain/loss framing, temporal framing, varied savings amounts, and simple vs. detailed savings calculations. Overall, we find that reframing the financial benefits of PV does not greatly influence the appeal of solar or the likelihood to respond to the mock ads. Instead, underlying consumer motivations and predispositions (i.e., perceived social support, consumer innovativeness, and personal pro-environmental norms) are the primary factors driving interest in adopting solar. Our findings suggest that tailoring messages to targeted consumer segments may be more effective than attempts to market the financial benefits of PV to broad audiences. The results also contribute to behavioral economics and psychology research by identifying contexts under which the gain/loss framing bias and the present/future framing bias may not apply.