ARB Research Seminar

This page updated January 6, 2015

The CoolCalifornia City Challenge: A Statewide Program to Enable Low Carbon Communities

Photo of Daniel Kammen

Daniel Kammen

Photo of Chris Jones

Chris Jones

Daniel M. Kammen, Ph.D., Energy and Resources Group and Chris M. Jones, Ph.D., CoolClimate Network, University of California, Berkeley

January 08, 2015
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA

Video: 1. 2.
Press Release: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Research Project


This presentation will highlight the programmatic development and research findings of the CoolCalifornia City Challenge ("The Challenge"), a statewide competition among California cities to motivate residents to reduce household carbon footprints and build more vibrant, sustainable communities. The Challenge uses techniques common to behavior incentivized programs, including comparative feedback, local messengers, social networks, goal setting, persuasive messaging, incentives, and competition to recruit and motivate participants. Participants earn points for engagement with the program, such as tracking household energy consumption and motor vehicle emissions, inviting friends to join, uploading stories, completing a research survey, and for actually reducing their carbon footprint by lowering emissions from household energy use and vehicle travel. Every point earned by households counts toward their city's ranking on the statewide scoreboard. At the end of the program (which lasted one year in 2013 and six months in 2014) the city with the most points is named "Coolest California City" by the California Air Resources Board. The two runners up are each named "Cool California City." The Challenge is sponsored by Energy Upgrade California, which last year distributed $100,000 among cities based on the level of participation by residents in each community.

Over two years the program has engaged 6,500 households in 17 very diverse cities across California and reduced an estimated 500 metric tons of CO₂ equivalent, with ongoing savings expected. During 2013, participants entering energy data in the online software used about 14% less electricity than a control group, but did not use significantly less natural gas, possibly due to lack of competition deadlines during winter months, and fewer natural gas end uses for potential reductions. Older and more highly educated participants outperformed younger and less educated participants, while income, political identity, and attitudes toward climate change affected participation levels, but not points or energy reductions. Participants reported very altruistic motivations for joining the program, including improving where they live, protecting the environment and helping local organizations. While winning prizes and earning recognition for their city ranked low on a list of reported motivations, participation in the program dramatically spiked only during intense moments of competition. Together, this evidence suggests that inter-city competitions can be a successful strategy to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaker Biographies

Daniel Kammen, Ph.D. is the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, with parallel appointments in the Energy and Resources Group, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the department of Nuclear Engineering. Kammen is the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) and Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center. He serves as founding Editor in Chief of Environmental Research Letters. He was appointed the first Environment and Climate Partnership for the Americas (ECPA) Fellow in 2010 and served as World Bank Group's Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in 2010-2011. He has served as a contributing or coordinating lead author on various reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1999, as well as on two National Academy of Sciences boards and panels. He has authored or co-authored 12 books, written more than 300 peer-reviewed journal publications, testified more than 40 times to U.S. state and federal congressional briefings, and has provided various governments with more than 50 technical reports. Dr. Kammen was educated in physics at Cornell and Harvard, and held postdoctoral positions at the California Institute of Technology and Harvard. He was Assistant Professor at Princeton University before moving to the University of California, Berkeley.

Chris M. Jones, Ph.D. leads the CoolClimate Network, a division of University of California, Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL). CoolClimate research provides the analytic foundation for "smart" greenhouse gas management software and behavior-based programs that engage, educate, and motivate individuals, businesses, and communities to adopt low carbon technologies and practices. Versions of CoolClimate tools have been adopted by the state of California via the partnership, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and communities throughout the United States. Jones serves as co-chair of the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) Conference (5th year as program chair), the premier conference focused on understanding individual and organizational behavior and decision-making related to energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and sustainability. He previously co-instructed an undergraduate course at U.C. Berkeley on behavior and sustainability. He received his Ph.D. in Energy and Resources at U.C. Berkeley in 2014. He also holds an M.S. in Energy and Resources and an M.A. in Latin American Studies, both from U.C. Berkeley, and a B.A. in Politics from U.C. Santa Cruz.

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