Sobriety: is the incentive enough?

► “It is above all essential to avoid contradictory injunctions”

Andreas Rudinger, researcher associated with the energy-climate program of IDDRI (Institute for sustainable development and international relations)

Incentive versus regulation? It is a false dilemma. Controlling energy consumption is already the subject of either one or the other. Let’s not make it an ideological question. In some cases, regulation is effective. In others, it is not.

For example, lowering the maximum authorized speed to 110 km/h on the highway would be extremely effective. Such a measure would make it possible to make substantial and immediate fuel savings, without the need for prior investment. Note in passing that the loss of time on a journey is negligible. And while not all drivers will comply with the new rule, the majority of them will apply it. In this case, the regulatory lever is therefore relevant.

Conversely, the regulations already provide for setting the heating at a maximum of 19°C and the air conditioning at 26°C, and this is not being respected. Knowing that there will be no housing police to monitor everyone, the constraint in this area is illusory. Other means must be used: making households aware of the benefits of energy savings on their bills, setting up a narrative on collective mobilization, and, even if it makes you smile, seeing ministers in turtlenecks can have a effect.

The fundamental challenge is to manage to establish a new social norm around sobriety, that is to say, to make it a behavior recognized as rewarding. How do you convince people to warm up to 19°C, which requires some effort? Whether Kylian Mbappé or Beyoncé do it! In a world that no longer believes in institutions, we need ambassadors to convince as many people as possible.

Do you know what triggers the decision to renovate your home? It’s to talk about it with a neighbor who did it, who is happy with the result and who will give you the number of the craftsman who did the work at his home. That’s how it is, in real life.

Above all, it is essential to avoid contradictory injunctions. In this case, call for energy savings while setting up a tariff shield of 45 billion euros without conditions! The government has put a colossal sum on the table, without an impact study, without targeting the most modest categories. Everyone benefits from the tariff shield, whether or not they behave wastefully.

Progressive pricing would be wiser: ensure that the price of energy consumption considered reasonable is affordable but make it much higher for consumption that exceeds this volume.

At IDDRI, we had proposed that, within the same global envelope, for 1 euro spent on price freezes, concentrated on the most modest, 1 euro should be spent to encourage investment in energy renovation. This would have caused a massive boost in investment in heat pumps, solar or thermal insulation.

► “The French do not like to be infantilized”

Jean-Marc Zulesi, deputy Renaissance of the 8e constituency of Bouches-du-Rhône, chairman of the sustainable development and regional planning commission at the National Assembly

The various announcements of the energy sobriety plan are there to respond to an emergency thanks to common sense measures and daily support for citizens. I have full confidence in our fellow citizens who are aware of the difficult situation in which we find ourselves: war at the gates of Europe, energy crisis… The idea is to stick together.

The strength of this plan is to propose measures that are not hard constraints. The French do not like to be forced to act and infantilized. For carpooling, for example, encouraging it with a €200 bonus is much more effective than forcing people to carpool.

In order for citizens to act, we must work hand in hand and use incitement, not punitive ecology. The incentive speaks more to households because it concerns their daily life while not impacting their lives in an unfavorable way. When you decide yourself to lower the heating to 19°C for example, it is a choice that is not suffered.

The measure that limits the speed of civil servants’ vehicles to 110 km/h is much more relevant than a constraint method. Limiting all highways to 110 km / h could tense. We prefer to favor action and exemplarity.

I am very optimistic with regard to the incentive method because when we focus on support and setting an example, this makes citizens want to take up such and such a measure. It is therefore not a question of cutting everything, but rather of consuming differently. I think there is a real awareness, without having to fall into a totally anxiety-provoking climate.

The incentive method is very effective when one is aware of the energy situation and the European context. You shouldn’t make people feel guilty, it’s essential in a context of inflation and declining purchasing power. When we make citizens feel guilty, it doesn’t work, we saw that during the health crisis, in which case we can’t involve them in our approach.

With companies, we are betting on trust and we have worked on this plan with them. If we see that they do not respect the measures, I have no difficulty in saying that strong measures will be needed but for me, that will not happen. Forty years ago, during the oil crisis, sobriety measures were proposed, and the French followed them without problem.

What we are asking of people is not to please the government, fellow citizens have the will to protect the future of their country and they have understood that it is thanks to their small gestures that we will get out of this crisis. Our country has the capacity to cope.

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