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Large and persistent effects of green energy defaults in the household and business sectors


Non-monetary incentives that encourage pro-environmental behaviour can contribute to combating climate change. Here, we investigated the effect of green energy defaults in the household and business sectors. In two large-scale field studies in Switzerland of over 200,000 households and 8,000 enterprises, we found that presenting renewable energy to existing customers as the standard option led to around 80% of the household and business sector customers staying with the green default, and the effects were largely stable over a time span of at least four years. Electricity consumption had only a weak effect on default acceptance. Our data do not indicate moral licensing: accepting the green default did not lead to a disproportionate increase in electricity consumption. Compared with men, women in both the household and business sectors were slightly more likely to accept the green default. Overall, non-monetary incentives can be highly effective in both the household and business sectors.

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Fig. 1: Shares of energy packages per supplier, sector and year.
Fig. 2: Predicted probabilities of green default acceptance per kWh.
Fig. 3: Shares of energy packages for large enterprises per year.

Data availability

The data were obtained by two Swiss electricity companies and are anonymized and part of non-disclosure agreements. Upon request and depending on consent from the companies, the data can be made available for replication. Replication data and code for the population survey will be made available using a data repository.

Code availability

The code used in this study is available from the authors upon request.


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U.L. and A.D. acknowledge support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) within the National Research Programme ‘Managing Energy Consumption’ (NRP71), project no. 407140_153715. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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U.L., J.G. and A.D. designed the research and statistical analysis, U.L. and J.G. analysed data, U.L. led the writing of the paper and U.L., J.G. and A.D. contributed to writing.

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Correspondence to Ulf Liebe.

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Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Micha Kaiser, Yasuko Kameyama, Lucia Reisch and Cass Sunstein for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Liebe, U., Gewinner, J. & Diekmann, A. Large and persistent effects of green energy defaults in the household and business sectors. Nat Hum Behav 5, 576–585 (2021).

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