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  • [ March 1, 2013 ]
  • Smiley face grading for energy usage

Our December blog post, Would social pressure influence your energy usage?, examines the social pressure some utility companies are using to encourage customer energy savings.

Opower, one of the leading electricity consumer engagement companies, partners with various utility companies worldwide, and works to create behavioral nudges for electricity customers. While changing behavior is a difficult and long-term process, the company believes that social pressure and competition can help encourage the customers to change how they use electricity.

To give a nudge, Opower sends all customers an online energy report, which includes a bar graph that compares a customer’s energy consumption to their community’s average and most energy efficient households. While these bar graphs can spur some reaction from customers, there is a final portion of the report that gives customers a “smiley face” grade. If a customer uses less electricity than 80 percent of their neighbors, they will receive two smiley faces; one smiley face if they use less than most of their neighbors; and no smiley face if they use more energy than most of their neighbors.

The company has reported the smiley face strategy works, because it tells customers that the company approves of them. As soon as customers had their first smiley face grade, they began increasing energy efficiency.

Since the company’s founding in 2007, it has helped customers save more than $220,135,000 on energy bills. This translates to 3,170,710,000 pounds of CO2 emissions, and 2,066,950,000 kilowatt hours. On average, a family of four saves 2.5 percent more energy if their utility company partners with Opower. Click here for more information on Opower’s results.

For related ideas on human behavior and energy efficiency, visit Behavior and Usability: At the Interface of Human-Building Interaction from Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment.

Source: A Little Guilt, a Lot of Energy Savings, Slate.

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