Energy efficiency programs

The EVIDENT project focuses on residential energy consumption and how specific low-cost behavioural-based interventions could potentially correct consumers energy-related misconceptions and enhance energy efficiency. Thus, two out of five project use cases are devoted to designing and implementing field experiments to estimate the impact of behavioural interventions on energy conservation. More specifically, use case 1 includes estimates regarding the importance of consumption feedback for residential users by examining whether self-consumption feedback on historical energy usage can decrease energy consumption. In the same vein, use case 2 is designed to estimate the impact of information comparing a household’s energy use to similar neighbors.

Practically speaking, the consumers participating in these use cases receive feedback from a nudge intervention, the Home Energy Report (HER). HERs, a mechanism that has been widely used in energy efficiency programs, are either printed letters or digital documents which a) provide a snapshot of consumer household energy consumption over time, b) compare customer household energy consumption with other households with similar characteristics (called neighbors) while c) offering customized tips and updates to help customers save energy and costs.

Neighbors and efficient neighbors

More specifically, the term “neighbors” refer to households with common attributes, such as location, size of the building, number of household members etc., while the term “efficient neighbors” consists of a percentage of the most outperformed neighbors (usually the top 20%).

EVIDENT field experiment

EVIDENT designed and started the implementation of this field experiment based on the data provided by the CheckWatt. Efforts have been made to ensure that large representative samples are employed to ensure the generalizability of findings. At the same time, the representation of different socio-economics attributes will further ensure differences across groups.

Below, we present a HER that consists of six main sections:

Section 1: This section includes the company information, trying to familiarize the customers with the informational material by presenting the company’s logo, motto, and title for the Home Energy Report.

Section 2: This section outlines the household’s historical average energy consumption in kWh for two-week periods (blue series) and compares the household’s average energy consumption to that of the neighbors and the most efficient neighbors (orange and green series, respectively).

Section 3: The consumer can get information on their performance using three different kinds of emojis based on their average household performance (smiley, happy and disappointed).

Section 4: This section presents a percentage difference between the average household consumption during the reporting period and that of the average consumption of the most efficient neighbors that shows the household’s performance in a quantified format.

Section 5: In this section, the customer rank is displayed. In general, there are three different cases. Suppose the customer belongs to the 25% most efficient neighbors. In that case, a green row with the customer’s rank and an icon indicating high energy efficiency will be presented. If the customer belongs to the 25% least efficient neighbors, a red row with the customer’s rank and an icon indicating poor performance and energy inefficiency will be displayed, triggering additional actions by the customer. Otherwise, a blue row with the customer’s rank and an icon indicating less energy efficiency will be displayed, encouraging customers to make further efforts and actions.

Section 6: HER will also include different message framings aiming at moral suasion, injunctive social norms, appliances’ energy usage etc. Thus, to examine whether reinforcing the injunctive feedback has other effects on electricity use, we chose to include a statement similar to the template to praise energy saving.

Section 7: This section includes energy conservation tips for customers. The customer can use the provided link to receive personalized energy conservation tips based on their household characteristics. Based on the average household energy consumption reporting period, the customer will receive either one, two, or four energy consumption tips. The worst performer consumer in terms of average energy consumption receives a larger number of tips.

Section 8: In the final section, there is a statement requesting the HER recipients to use the provided link to update their demographic information.

Experiment process

At the time of writing and while the field experiment is in progress, almost 300 customers receive the upper HER template every two weeks (treatment group), while 500 customers receive nothing (control group). As more data flow in, more customers will be included in the treatment group. Finally, after a few rounds the design of the HER will be changed to include information regarding energy consumption during the day. This is for inducing consumers to switch energy consumption during off-peak periods.