Research reveals how Saudi Arabia must tackle energy efficiency awareness

As Saudi Arabia's energy consumption is set to grow to unsustainable levels, research into the reasons behind the lack of energy efficiency practice among consumers and how behaviour may be changed has been conducted by Nottingham Business School.

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Saudi Arabia is threatened by unrestrained domestic fuel consumption
Our research highlighted that there are major problems relating to consumer behaviour in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Hafez Abdo, Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Business School

As Saudi Arabia's energy consumption is set to grow to unsustainable levels, research into the reasons behind the lack of energy efficiency practice among consumers and how behaviour may be changed has been conducted for the first time by Nottingham Business School (NBS), Nottingham Trent University.

At around 2.8 million barrels a day, Saudi Arabia consumes more energy than any other country. Low energy prices, high rates of population growth and economic development, and the lack of public awareness are all exacerbating over-consumption and wasted energy - leaving the country vulnerable to economic and social crises.

In order to understand the reasons behind the high level of inefficient energy usage among consumers, researchers questioned more than 740 Saudi Arabian households on their awareness levels and how they thought the problem could be solved.

The research was carried out by Dr Hafez Abdo, senior lecturer in Accounting and Finance at NBS, Samar Tardi Khan, PhD researcher in Energy Security and Renewable Energy at NBS, and Abdulrahman Al-Ghabban, deputy regional manager at Saudi Arabian Bechtel Company, Riyadh.

When asked if they thought that Saudi Arabia's residents were aware of the issue of global energy and CO2 emissions, 96% of questionnaire respondents said no, and while a high percentage of participants (84%) knew what the term energy efficiency meant, 85% didn't know how many Kilowatts they consume monthly.

When questioned on whether they know what electricity tariff they're on, 70% said no, indicating that consumers' inability to understand their energy bills and the relationship between what they consume and what they are charged contributes to the lack of energy efficiency awareness. Unsurprising as 87% stated that self-research is the only way they find information.

The questionnaire also measured social status and revealed that those with higher levels of education and monthly income had more energy efficiency awareness than those on lower levels.

When it came to solutions, 41% stated that raising their awareness of efficiency would encourage them to use less energy, while 30% indicated that contributing to saving the environment would be a motivator, and 25% believed that increased energy costs and tariffs would drive them to use less energy.

Only 1% believed that the government is doing enough and 32% indicated that the government should improve education on the topic. Many suggested social media as an awareness tool and put forward the idea of introducing more renewable energy sources.

Dr Hafez Abdo from Nottingham Business School said: "There are many negative habits in Saudi Arabia which contribute to inefficiency. For example, leaving lights and televisions on when not in use, or leaving electrical appliances on standby without any regard for environmental impacts. In fact, good energy efficiency habits are linked to old age and embarrassment so these behaviours are complex and hard to change.

"Our research highlighted that there are major problems relating to consumer behaviour in Saudi Arabia, especially among low income and undereducated individuals. However, even well educated people who demonstrate some awareness of energy efficiency measures do not appear to follow any energy efficiency habits in their daily life.

"We therefore propose a number of recommendations to improve energy efficiency and to increase consumers' positive attitudes towards energy consumption: focus on consumer education, market efficiency via Friday prayer speech, improve the school curriculum to educate children and, indirectly, their parents about energy efficiency, and develop renewable energy options and sing smart meters. Energy efficiency programs must be administered. Finally, we recommend that the country may use a balanced system of energy subsidies."

PhD researcher, Samar Tardi Khan, added: "Saudi Arabia has a lot to gain by improving the situation. Studies show that improved energy efficiency can boost productivity, thereby increasing growth and decreasing inflation. It can also contribute to energy security goals by means of reducing both energy consumption and energy production. The transition to a new energy efficiency model in the country will also create new employment opportunities."

Research reveals how Saudi Arabia must tackle energy efficiency awareness

Published on 3 February 2015
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School

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