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The first program of behavioral energy efficiency it was applied for the first time in 2008 by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the municipal company of Sacramento (California, United States) in collaboration with Opower. But what is it about?
A program of behavioral energy efficiency provides for the sending by energy companies, proactively and through multiple channels, of personalized communications to customers to inform them about their consumption. Obviously, these communications are based on techniques that are the result of cutting-edge research in the field of behavioral psychology and are intended to motivate customers to make more effective decisions in the use of resources, achieving long-term energy savings.
The Home Energy Reports that the consumer involved in a program receives behavioral energy efficiency, such as the one launched by SMU and Opower, are designed to provide comprehensive information that does not end in a pure dissemination activity, but induces the consumer to act in a virtuous manner. But what is the information that induces the consumer to take action?
Well, studies show that to stimulate people's interest in their energy consumption, the best message is to provide them with a comparison with what is considered normal in similar situations. The comparison with neighbors, for example, seems to work very well.
In the programs of behavioral energy efficiency who use comparative messages with the neighborhood, each consumer is compared with another 100-200 households living in the same neighborhood and with 20% of the same who are classified among the most efficient. Regulatory messages of this type, which underlie a social norm, are sent to consumers in various ways and through different communication channels (for example web portal, sms and e-mail).
Another type of effective message consists of 'ideas and suggestions' that the consumer can reach, for example, through the supplier company's website. In the SMU case, the ideas and suggestions for decreasing their consumption were listed according to their popularity and for each idea or suggestion the number of people who put it into practice was indicated. The basis of this initiative is the assumption that the user is more willing to take an action when he knows that it has already been carried out by someone else, since the risk margin associated with the action decreases.
How do you know if a behavioral energy efficiency it works? The best procedure for measuring the results achieved by behavioral programs generally resides in randomized controlled trials, a system that is considered the most rigorous by the United States Department of Energy. This is also the methodology that constitutes the standard of excellence for clinical trials, in which it allows to test the efficiency or effectiveness of various types of medical interventions on a patient population.
Following the practice of clinical analyzes, the energy saving is assessed by measuring the difference between the energy consumption of households participating in the program (the treatment group), in relation to energy consumption of a comparison group of households that is statistically equivalent to the participating households (the control group), during the same time period.
People who receive concrete advice on how to improveenergy efficiency they regularly begin to consume less than those belonging to the control group (on average between 1.5 and 2.5% less). And since statistically the treatment group and the control group are symmetrical, this reduction of energy consumption is attributable solely to the application of communication technologies aimed at behavioral modification.(source ENEA - Annual Energy Efficiency Report 2015)
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