Using narratives to infer preferences in understanding the energy efficiency gap, Nature Energy (2023)
Tobias Wekhof and Sébastien Houde (old title: "The narrative of the energy efficiency gap")
Investing in energy efficiency is crucial for a low-carbon economy, particularly in the building sector. Despite various subsidy programs, meeting energy targets is challenging because households do not invest sufficiently. Here we study homeowners' low levels of energy efficiency retrofits. We use narratives, an emerging method based on open-ended survey responses, to identify the barriers and determinants behind renovation decisions. Using Natural Language Processing, we transform narratives into quantifiable metrics. While financial considerations are a major barrier, homeowners' main reasons for renovating are unrelated to energy savings. Most homeowners delay energy-saving investments until their buildings require renovations. Co-benefits like environmental concerns and comfort gains are equally or more important than financial motivations. Many homeowners are unaware of existing policies and would favor reducing the bureaucracy of retrofits. Subsidies, while popular, are likely to be mistargeted. Effective policies should also consider institutional factors such as bureaucratic burden and accessibility of information.
Saeid Vaghefi, Veruska Muccione, Dominik Stammbach, Jingwei Ni, Mathias Kraus, Julia Bingler, Simon Allen, Chiara Colesanti-Senni, Tobias Wekhof, Tobias Schimanski, Glen Gostlow, Nicolas Webersinke, Christian Huggel, Qian Wang, Tingyu Yu, Markus Leippold
Review Article: Natue Behind the Paper (link)
The effect of culture on energy efficient vehicle ownership, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management (2021)
Massimo Filippini and Tobias Wekhof
We provide an empirical analysis on the relation between culture and revealed environmental preferences. Switzerland's citizens share the same set of institutions but belong to multiple population groups, which differ by culture and language across distinct geographical locations. This unique setting allows us to disentangle the effect of culture on individual consumer preferences from institutional characteristics. We analyze the effect of culture on energy efficient vehicle registration, using municipality level data and applying a spatial fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Design at the internal French/German language border. Our results indicate that French-speaking municipalities have a 3 to 6 percentage points higher share of energy efficient vehicles, compared to their German-speaking counterparts. These findings suggest that French-speakers place a higher value on the environment, which may be due to their higher sense of collectivism and altruism.
Sustainable Finance Literacy and the Determinants of Sustainable Investing, R&R Journal of Banking and Finance
This paper introduces the concept of sustainable finance literacy. We survey a large sample of Swiss households and measure financial, sustainability, and sustainable finance literacy using two complementary approaches. First, we use traditional multiple-choice questions, and second, a novel approach based on open-ended questions that ask respondents to write a text response. We find that Swiss households, which are generally highly financially literate by international standards, exhibit low levels of sustainable financial literacy. Interestingly, multiple-choice questions lead to a gender gap, with women performing worse than men. However, this difference disappears when open-ended questions are used. Moreover, despite its low level, knowledge about sustainable finance turns out to be a highly significant factor for the ownership of sustainable products. Therefore, our results show that there is an urgent need to create transparent regulatory standards and to strengthen information campaigns about sustainable financial products.
Work in Progress
Do Energy Efficiency Standards Improve Quality? Evidence from a Revealed Preference Approach
Sébastien Houde, Anna Spurlock, and Tobias Wekhof
Additional value from free text diagnoses in electronic health records: a proof of concept study JMIR Medical Informatics (accepted)
Tarun Mehra, Tobias Wekhof, and Dagmar Iris Keller