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ACEEE Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs


December 19, 2013

Research Report B132

Authors:

Susan Mazur-Stommen, Kate Farley

Description:

As the first comparative analysis of utility-run behavior programs, this report lays the groundwork for further program development by developing a classification scheme, or taxonomy, that sorts programs into discrete categories. This study counted 281 such programs, many with multiple iterations, offered by 114 energy providers and third parties between 2008 and 2013. 

The study aims to focus and clarify terminology about behavior programs for both regulators and developers. After sorting programs by distinguishing features such as delivery channel and incentive type, we arrived at 20 major program categories grouped in 3 large families:

Cognition programs focus on delivering information to consumers. Categories include general and targeted communication efforts, social media, classroom education, and training.

Calculus programs rely on consumers making economically rational decisions. Categories include feedback, games, incentives, home energy audits, and installation.

Social interaction programs rely on interaction among people for their effectiveness. Categories include social marketing, person-to person efforts, eco-teams, peer champions, online forums, and gifts.

We conclude with a number of further recommendations besides the suggestion that managers stack behavioral strategies for maximum impact. Much work needs to be done in tracking, collecting, and analyzing behavior program data in order to document benefits and drive broader adoption. We also recommend that utilities coordinate their behavior programs with others in their region. Electric, gas, and water suppliers can build synergies among their efforts, as can neighboring suppliers, especially smaller and larger entities.

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