The research problem of this work is related to the influence of trust in energy sources and knowledge about them on achieving energy savings. Knowledge about energy management is a factor that is difficult to measure [1
]. Knowledge most often comes from unreliable sources of information. Forums and social media provide information from laymen, and the sellers of individual energy sources are often not able to provide proper information [3
] about the possibilities for the user and not only about the technical specifications. The information system on energy management issues must be clear and stable, in order to talk about sharing knowledge in this area [5
]. Unstable conditions with frequently changing energy regulations are not conducive to energy management in households [6
]. This results from the area of research and the subject of management, which is information and knowledge, constituting the possibility of energy management, which is the basis for building trust in this area [7
]. As emphasized by Choo, the effectiveness of information management and, at the same time, the knowledge accumulated as a system largely depend on the form of organizational culture. One of the most important factors in this regard is trust [8
]. User knowledge about energy management has been studied [11
]; however, in order to attain it, social campaigns [14
], as discussed in [15
], are required to generate knowledge and trust, which in turn create awareness [16
An important part of the research on energy management is represented by the technical requirements and the increase in costs [17
]. Previous studies focusing on economic aspects, even concerning the user, repeatedly suggested the need for a generation change or teaching only young people [19
]. Engaging the younger generation is a good way to save energy [20
], but there is still a gap to be filled in terms of creating understanding and faith in renewable energy sources, which have been accessible for quite a long time [19
Taking up the issues raised in the work has led to the appearance of energy management from the consumer’s point of view in a specific way, not only in terms of technical requirements [20
]. The authors pay attention to this subject due to the increasing involvement in energy saving and social campaigns in many countries.
An innovative contribution to research is focusing not only on energy management or knowledge management in a specific field, as evidenced by previous research. What is new is to combine these aspects and give them the condition of social trust. In many cutting-edge areas, consumer confidence is fostered, for example, in the case of new technologies. Unfortunately, this aspect has not been taken into account in relation to renewable energy sources. When consumers have the opportunity to choose, for example, in creating home alternative energy sources or in using a specific energy source in their own home, it is worth conducting an analysis in this area. This was the goal of the authors of the article.
2. Literature Review
The knowledge management and creation system is a complex set of elements related to basic knowledge operations [21
]. These activities include acquisition, processing, dissemination, and analysis [22
]. The knowledge management system is created by people [23
], but equally important is the culture in which these processes take place and the systems that allow them to be managed [24
People are the creators and users of knowledge. They are the elements that determine the form and functioning of the system [26
], as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes taking place, e.g., the emergence and exchange of knowledge [27
]. This is the role of knowledge in human life, whether in the household, work, or environment [28
]. It results directly from the importance of knowledge in human life and the role it plays. The key element is the communication process, which is the basis for creating knowledge management. The basis of efficient and effective communication is trust [30
Factors can be divided into two groups: technical and related to human functioning. This division is important from the point of view of the possibilities and ability to shape the system. Technical infrastructure in the form of IT systems and applications, as well as infrastructure related to human functioning, i.e., methods of managing and maintaining relationships, plays a key role [32
]. However, this infrastructure is much more sensitive and has more disruptions that can raise or lower the level of trust [35
]. The energy issue has now become a national policy issue, as has the use of alternative energy sources [26
]. Despite the pandemic, technological and economic development continues to increase energy demand [40
]. Increased involvement in the use of technology in the household means many devices that facilitate the functioning of the home, while also causing a noticeable increase in energy consumption [41
]. Therefore, it is especially important to manage energy-saving behaviors. The involvement of home managers in energy management behavior is most often for two reasons: financial savings and a commitment to sustainable development. In order to achieve the importance of these factors, it is necessary to teach the consumer how to use these solutions and to build their trust in these sources of energy [43
]. By studying individual behavior, scientists have developed many theories that explain personal behavior [44
]. Previous studies of awareness and behavior in the field of energy saving mainly concerned the design scale and research examining the relationship between these two factors [45
]. This article investigates the association between energy efficiency awareness and energy-saving behavior using the theory of planned behavior.
The definition of energy conservation awareness is fundamental but also controversial in management and the technology itself, and it has not yet reached consensus [35
]. Some researchers [48
] suggest that the concepts of behavior cannot be defined because behavioral research is still incomplete, just as the meanings and functions of behavior are still unknown [37
]. So far, the understanding of the functions of the human brain is still very limited, as cognition [51
] and consciousness cannot be directly explained from a knowledge management perspective [52
]. This article suggests that providing a comprehensive definition of consciousness is a difficult task [38
]. Therefore, for now, behavior can be studied and analyzed in a specific environment to provide a definition of that specific state [53
]. Such research uses understanding of consciousness from a management point of view and analysis of economic factors to study the influence of consciousness [55
]. The challenge of investigating consumer awareness and knowledge [56
] is long-term and involves the participation of numerous forces and societal resources, as well as the resources of enterprises offering new solutions, in order to stimulate consumer interest and trust [15
The conducted scientific observations led to the authors realizing the need to pay attention to two issues. The first and potentially more difficult is knowledge of energy sources and their management. The second is culture-based trust, especially in relation to alternative energy sources [60
]. The authors posed research questions in conjunction with their observations and the observations that resulted from them, which were then reflected in a set of aims and research hypotheses:
What are the basic problems in energy management due to the knowledge possessed?
What are the implications of customer faith in alternative energy sources for energy management?
How does trust affect energy savings or energy costs?
In the research questions posed and, thus, in the hypotheses, the issue of the division into countries was not taken into account because the results of individual countries are similar. The issue of trust can be viewed in terms of interpersonal relations and the interface between people and technology [61
]. Both dimensions, as noted, have a great influence on knowledge management and trust [62
]. Any disruptions in this area translate into disruptions. The authors of this paper looked at the importance of trust for businesses and their employees in the case of a sudden requirement to transition to remote service [65
The unstable situation in the energy market [67
] and changes in legal regulations [68
] impact the organizational form [69
] and culture, including relations, communication, and trust [70
]. The article uses quantitative research conducted by the authors, as well as reports from other quantitative and qualitative studies in the form of scientific observations [71
]. The article’s major research goal was to examine the level of trust in energy sources [73
] and its impact on home energy conservation [76
The formulated goal, in conjunction with the conducted literature research and practice observations related to energy management and trust in energy sources, forced the authors to develop the following hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1 (H1).
The level of knowledge about energy management increases confidence in alternative energy sources.
Hypothesis 2 (H2).
The level of knowledge about energy sources and management affects the energy management skills in one’s own household, as well as the costs.
3. Materials and Methods
The aim of the study was to determine to what extent the management of knowledge about energy sources increases consumer confidence and energy management in their households [77
]. This problem is important because the future of trust in alternative energy sources depends on the views of the current generation. The study described by the authors presents the structure of the analyzed attitudes and views of people managing energy in a given household [79
]. In order to achieve the set research goals, a research tool in the form of a questionnaire was developed, and the minimum sample size and the method of communication with respondents were determined. After the research, the results were collected and analyzed, and conclusions were formulated. The attitudes, behaviors, and trust of the respondents were described using a seven-point scale. Therefore, it was possible to assign respondents with a low, medium, or high pro-ecological and pro-social orientation, and then formulate conclusions about their future behavior.
The study was simultaneously conducted in Poland, Germany, France, and Italy, from February to April 2021, using a Google web form. It contained 11 questions addressed to household managers to solve the research problem. Each question included a point scale on which the answers were marked. Research focused on preferences and future behavior, knowledge gathering, and trust building. The division into problems related to knowledge and trust was justified [71
], because even the possessed knowledge did not result in the household managers trusting, for example, alternative energy sources. The research focused on the preferences and behaviors of household managers and was conducted using a representative method. The course of the study included 42,594 people aged 19–55 years. The sample meets the requirement of being a representative one, while the lack of a breakdown of results by individual countries results from their similar energy management and cooperation within the EU [10
]. They have similar goals, plans, and assumptions in this regard. The promotion of appropriate behavior in their societies and the education of citizens generate positive public responses. European citizens have a similar level of economic development and cultural profile, and the possibility of free movement between countries belonging to the European Union gives the opportunity [67
] to exchange knowledge, views, and observations on solutions [89
]. The second part of the study consisted of 11 targeted questions using the Servqual method.
To show the similarities between countries, the number of households in the countries surveyed was evaluated. Despite differences in country sizes, a noticeable common feature is the average household [4
]. The average household has 2.3 to 2.8 people (assumed as 2.5 people here). Table 1
shows the percentage energy consumption for home furnishings.
shows the structure of energy consumption in households broken down by energy carriers. The adoption of the principles of energy saving and trust in alternative energy sources is manifested in the consumption. Therefore, Figure 2
shows the structure of obtaining energy from alternative energy sources, which was the basis for the research.
The above-described research was carried out in order to verify the presented research hypotheses. In terms of the method, the empirical part included the development and result analysis of quantitative and qualitative research carried out with the use of a questionnaire.
The most popular way of building knowledge about energy saving in households is word of mouth among trusted people (family, friends), which is what 59% of households do. Videos on the Internet (36%) and press articles (26%) are also frequent activities aimed at acquiring knowledge about energy consumption in apartments. The most common solution for reducing energy consumption, associated with additional expenses, is the use of energy-saving light sources. Such activity was declared by 52% of the households surveyed. Respondents emphasized that, in the last 3 years, they more often remember paying attention to the sources of energy supplied, while they also voluntarily participated in various forms of training, subscribed to groups on social media, or followed industry profiles, where they could share or learn about energy saving. The respondents paid attention not only to the ways of saving or their reasons; increasingly, there was noticeable progress in the form of interest in the origin of the energy source. The analysis of these data allowed for the definition of further research activities in the field of trust in energy sources. This data facilitated the decision to use the Servqual method.
The article presents descriptive statistics for the constructs analyzed, showing the interrelationships between the effectiveness of knowledge-building initiatives among household managers and their awareness of and trust in alternative energy sources, which are the basis for energy saving. According to the results in Table 2
, we can see a moderate average value for the willingness to have knowledge (4.07), cooperation in the field of applied energy solutions (5.27), and building consumer awareness about energy sources (4.59). The mean values for the other five structures that measure confidence or knowledge were low to moderate at best. Average values were obtained for responsibility for energy management (3.59), implementation of solutions (2.64), availability of information and creation of knowledge (3.15), and level of trust in energy sources (3.92). Our study concerned the level of trust in alternative energy sources and the level of knowledge allowing for energy management assuming different levels of consciousness. The respondents had to declare their participation in activities related to energy management.
As a consequence, this may influence possible positive opinions related to the effectiveness of the current activities in the field of energy management, with particular emphasis on trust in alternative energy sources. However, we found different values for the measured performance structures. The values show the actions taken to use the knowledge in energy management and trust in alternative energy sources. In practice, it can be stated that the effectiveness of actions in the examined group of enterprises was moderate. Table 2
shows the results of the full survey conducted in all countries.
The demonstration of the existence of dependence and its strength completed the first stage of the research. In the first step of the Servqual analysis, the differences between the levels of energy management perception and consumer awareness and the levels expected for the five dimensions were calculated, and the results are shown in Table 3
On the basis of the results from Table 3
, a graph was drawn, which includes the results of the analysis of the Servqual method of perception and expectations. Figure 3
shows the graphical form of the results obtained using the Servqual method.
The analysis shows that, in 16 out of 23 possible cases, satisfaction was achieved, while, in the remaining cases, there was unfortunately no level of satisfaction with energy management activities related to the use of the Internet of things by consumers of all ages. However, as can be seen, the areas of dissatisfaction concerned generational differences, understanding, and consumer awareness of the concept. Therefore, it can be assumed that they would not have a large impact on the sustainable functioning of energy management. The biggest problem was represented by mistakes made by consumers, often in the operation of the application itself or in understanding basic concepts. The results of the research allowed us to identify the factors influencing the reduction in the use of the Internet of things in favor of energy management in households.
The most satisfying factors were energy management knowledge and safety culture. Figure 4
shows the results of the calculation of the arithmetic mean for each of the studied areas of the Servqual method.
Positive arithmetic means were obtained for the three dimensions, among which the ability to manage energy achieved a nonideal negative result. On the other hand, generational differences were grossly low. The next step in the Servqual method was to calculate the total arithmetic measure of satisfaction.
The final step was to evaluate the importance of the five dimensions. The interviewees divided 100 points among the abovementioned satisfaction and quality criteria. Table 4
shows the respondents’ evaluation of the dimensions’ importance.
The mean values were used to calculate the weighted mean of the individual dimensions, as well as the total weighted mean of the Servqual method, and the results are presented in Table 5
The results of the weighted average analysis of the surveyed measures showed that the area of business management reliability requires immediate improvement, while providing employees with knowledge about big data and security threats also requires intervention, reflection, and changes, as confirmed by previous calculations. The area that most requires changes is management reliability. The remaining areas of the analysis were above zero, with a level heading toward satisfaction. This is also indicated by the positive result of the total weighted average Servqual.
shows the expected impact of individual characteristics on the overall long-term satisfaction level: (+)—increase, (−)—decrease, (+/−)—neutral.
Higher levels of knowledge and greater levels of consumer involvement in household energy management with the use of the Internet of things help to increase the awareness and knowledge of older consumers. They also make it easier to analyze activities in applications and systems for the younger generation. Due to the growing availability of modern systems, creating a culture of energy management and saving, the Internet of things in this respect is enormous.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
In a turbulently changing environment, enterprises are forced to search for the most effective methods of monitoring and detecting changes in energy management, in order to take effective actions leading to cost reduction, environmental management, and the use of modern technologies for the household [94
]. The integration of these elements is the main goal of a modern approach to energy management [96
], and informed consumers want to follow it [98
The research results are pessimistic, showing ignorance of systems, a low level of knowledge, and a negligible level of environmental awareness. Future research on the subject covered in this article should, thus, focus on the following:
adaptation of management to the specifics of the energy sector,
knowledge served by energy companies,
activities aimed at better preparation of the younger generation for energy management,
the presence of sustainable development in educational programs.
Summarizing the content of this article, it is important, both in science and in practice, to pay more attention to the future of development in the energy sector. The current generation has initiated sustainable development in the energy sector. The research results presented in the article confirm this thesis. The study showed that the younger generation is better technologically prepared but not prepared to take up the challenges of energy management in their households.
This paper presents the results of qualitative and quantitative research carried out by the authors. The use of selected methodologies was related to the fact that quantitative research allows one to obtain a generalized picture of the subject of research. On the other hand, qualitative research allows you to gain more knowledge related to the identification of factors related to the studied area and the relationships between them. This preparation of the survey also required the acquisition of specific knowledge, as well as the identification and understanding of specific factors, and the relationship between them. This required the use of qualitative research methodology. Qualitative research based on the idea of ethnographic research allows for a better understanding of the details of the phenomenon, while quantitative research allows for generalizations. The implementation of research is always associated with the occurrence of specific problems and limitations. The limitation of this study was the inability to relate the results to another research period. The authors decided that this is an option for future research, and they will perform a comparative study within 2–3 years.
Knowledge, the level and flow of which is closely related to relationships and communication, is a factor that drives or supports trust in alternative energy sources. This study confirmed the hypothesis that an increase in the level of knowledge relatively increases the level of trust in alternative solutions. Trust is a factor that allows consumers to acquire knowledge and behavior skills in a given area over time. It is imperative to remember that trust is easier to build in a traditional face-to-face format with countable and measurable factors. The situation is a little more complicated here, as the trust concerns energy that we do not see but bear the true cost of, as well as energy sources that people outside the industry are unfamiliar with. Building this trust is a long and difficult process. However, as can be seen in the charts, more and more consumers are deciding to use these sources. The validation of the second hypothesis that a lack of information leads to ineffective energy management, which leads to an increase in energy expenses, is also a significant finding.
After conducting research in selected countries, it can be concluded that the most important element in terms of trust in renewable energy sources is not the level of trust itself; it does not appear by itself. It is necessary to establish a high level of awareness in society and the willingness to acquire knowledge among those managing the household. The level of trust is at an acceptable level in all of the surveyed countries, but it is directly proportional to the level of knowledge and willingness to acquire new knowledge in this area. Furthermore, a qualitative study in which respondents could comment on their needs for the future showed that they lack an energy management culture. Society expects citizens to sort trash or care for the environment, and energy conservation and trust in renewable energy sources are still ways to establish social trust.