Project at a Glance

Title: Behavioral responses to real-time individual energy usage information: a large scale experiment

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Delmas, Magali

Contractor: UC Los Angeles

Contract Number: 10-332

Research Program Area: Climate Change

Topic Areas: Behavioral Change


Electricity generation accounts for over 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted by the United States. ENGAGE investigates how real time appliance level energy usage information provided through advanced metering technology can induce conservation behavior. ENGAGE leverages a large asset of advanced residential energy monitoring technology deployed in 120 apartments in Los Angeles. ENGAGE systems frame energy feedback to optimize motivations to reduce energy use by recognizing that the impact of electricity use on the environment, on health, or on the community are often 'invisible' to consumers. We experiment with different message formats to identify best practices and optimal messaging. Specifically we compare the effectiveness of messages based on the environmental or health benefits associated with conservation to more conventional messages focused on the pecuniary savings associated with conservation. Our results, based on a panel of 440,059 hourly observations for 118 residences over 8 months show that health-based messages, which communicate the public health externalities of electricity production, outperform monetary savings information as a driver of behavioral change in the home. Participants who received messages emphasizing air pollution and health impacts associated with energy use reduced their consumption by 6% over the experimental period as compared to the control group. Health messaging was particularly effective on families with children, who achieved up to 19.8% savings. No significant conservation was found for participants who received messages informing them about monetary savings. Our research advances our knowledge of effective non-price incentives for energy conservation.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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