Introduction: Almost 50% of the European Union’s final energy consumption is used for heating and cooling, 80% of which in buildings. The European Commission recently issued the “Efficiency Energy First Principle,” a formal recommendation to EU countries prioritizing energy efficiency measures over other energy-related investments. Decarbonizing the aging housing stock represents a significant challenge to Southern Europe and the remaining Member States. This exploratory research aims to understand why Portuguese people fail to increase their energy efficiency; it then proposes potential interventions. Several studies have looked into the effect of technology-based and behavior-based strategies (individual, socioeconomic and demographic, as well as contextual factors) regarding residential energy consumption. Few, however, have brought all these factors together in one project as in this case.
Methods: We used the integrative COM-B model to investigate three core influences of behavior, namely, capability, opportunity, and motivation in a qualitative analysis of a sample of citizens of one specific Lisbon, Portugal community. The Behavior Change Wheel model was then used to propose interventions that might promote energy-responsible behavior.
Results: Our finding suggests that investments in structural strategies, and, above all, in behavioral strategies are needed to achieve efficient residential electricity consumption. Specifically, we found a lack of capability (i.e., people’s physical skills and strength, knowledge, and regulation skills) represented the greatest barrier to energy consumption efficiency. A lack of motivation (involving habits and self-conscious intentions or beliefs) was the least decisive factor in the adoption of efficient energy consumption behaviors.
Discussion: We therefore recommend the following interventions: 1) training and enablement addressing residents’ physical capability (primarily the replacement of high consumption equipment); 2) training, restriction, environmental restructuring, and enablement would increase residents’ physical opportunity (arising from poor home insulation and citizens’ lack of financial resources to invest in energy solutions); and 3) education, training, and enablement to change psychological capability (regarding insufficient or confusing energy use information).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Energy Efficiency
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Residential electricity consumption
  • COM-B model
  • Change wheel model
  • Public policy
  • Behavioral intervention


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