Why is behavior change important?

Changing behavior presents an opportunity to make big efficiency gains in a way that also happens to be low cost. For instance, one study estimates that programs that provide people with feedback on how much energy they use—just one of many behavioral approaches—can reduce energy use from 4 to 12 percent. Many other behavioral techniques are just as promising.

Additionally, applying behavioral techniques to promoting energy efficiency frequently benefits programs in other ways. The increased person-to-person engagement in many behavioral programs often improves overall customer satisfaction. For example, one Canadian member utility sees a two to three percent increase in customer satisfaction each time they implement one of their community efforts. Such additional perks of behavioral approaches make them a win-win for customers, utilities, and the environment.

Is it about conservation or efficiency?

Behavior change involves both conservation and efficiency. iStockphotoWhile simple conservation actions such as turning off lights when leaving a room are a great start, inspiring consumers and business owners to install new weatherization measures or upgrade to more efficient equipment also goes a long way towards saving customers money and improving comfort.

Conservation and efficiency go hand in hand with increased comfort and productivity. A residential customer who adds insulation to his home enjoys a less drafty, cozier indoor environment. A plant manager who more effectively manages the energy use at her facility can improve her bottom line.

How much energy can behavior approaches save? How long do savings last?

Though techniques for measuring savings continue to evolve, existing data indicate that behavioral changes can have a measurable impact. For instance:

  • Over a dozen CEE members have implemented one program type that uses a behavioral technique called social norms. These programs have saved up to three percent and, in one case, 75 percent of the savings lasted for over a year after the program ended.
  • One CEE member in Massachusetts saved over nine percent using a program that incorporates many different behavioral approaches, including feedback and modeling.
  • Another CEE member in a northern New England state saved 7.5 percent on a program in the commercial sector that used behavioral techniques such as goal setting and prompts.