Date of Graduation

8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Song Feng

Committee Member

Myria Allen

Second Committee Member

Marty Matlock

Abstract

Much of the United States (US) has seen an increase in warm days, decrease in cool days, and increase in extreme weather events. These trends are projected to continue across much of the US and in turn increase the demand for electricity and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. Ambitious energy efficiency (EE) programs are used across the US by energy utility organizations to reduce electricity demand and emissions. This study examined the impact of climatic variability on electricity consumption, as well as how pro-conservation interventions such as EE programs and experiential learning can be utilized to mitigate residential electricity consumption and emissions. Chapter 2 of this study examined the impact of EE programs on residential electricity consumption taking into account climatic indicators across the contiguous US. A state-by-state analysis suggested that climatic indicators were more explanatory of residential consumption than energy utility organization EE efforts at the state-level. Chapter 3 examined residential electricity consumption for heating and cooling applications explained by energy utility organization EE efforts and climatic indicators in the Southeast US. Indirect spending on EE programs was significantly related to heating and cooling applications and heating degree days, a climatic indicator for number of days over a certain temperature, were significantly related to cooling equipment applications. A survey of 2,450 residential electricity consumers was analyzed. Residents who were aware of EE programs and participated in EE programs were significantly more likely than those who were not to support energy utility organization use of clean energy and government subsidies for EE programs. Chapter 4 provided case study in a Southeast US state where a pro-conservation behavioral intervention was deployed in an elementary school. This chapter utilized a longitudinal design and mixed methodology to assess the effect of curriculum-based experiential learning on environmental literacy and electricity-saving behaviors. Students showed improvement in environmental literacy after interventions were deployed. Normalizing electricity consumption for weather, a decrease in energy consumption of more than 15% in student homes and more than 30% at the focal school was observed. The final chapter provides a discussion of the findings, implications, future research questions, and conclusions.

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