Last week, I attended the first ever EnergySavvy Customer Summit in Seattle, where we enjoyed amazing weather, delicious food, and, of course, interesting discussions about energy efficiency. The event was hosted by the folks at EnergySavvy, who make software to support energy-efficiency programs, including an online audit tool and a program management software platform. With guest speakers from a number of great organizations, the conference was designed to provide thought leadership for utilities and other organizations that are looking to market and deliver more-effective energy-efficiency programs.
One of my favorite speakers was Dr. Amanda Carrico of the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, who presented insight into energy-efficiency program design and human psychology. A variety of factors, such as the availability of information, can influence people’s perceptions and participation rates in many activities, including energy-efficiency programs. For example, Dr. Carrico cited studies showing that belief in climate change is increased if people are asked about the topic while surrounded by dead plants, and concern for drought is heightened among people who are questioned about the topic while they’re eating dry foods such as pretzels. As energy is in many ways an invisible resource, it can be difficult for people to perceive the importance of the issue.
To increase visibility of energy information, Dr. Carrico suggested redesigning energy bills to highlight important data and present aggregate community savings information to emphasize collective achievement. Training home auditors to use vivid language in describing energy loss, such as the total size of the hole that a series of leaks and cracks in the house actually creates, can also help increase visibility into the issue. In addition, auditors can be coached to encourage customers to commit to at least one follow-up action after the audit, increasing participation rates. Finally, using targeted messaging based on demographics and click rates for online ads and e-mails is another way to present customers with the most relevant information.
Making energy into a more visible resource with tactics such as these can help people to better understand the importance of efficiency. There are many other strategies that can work to increase energy awareness. Commonwealth Edison shares information on social media channels where many people are already spending time. BC Hydro highlights energy waste with visually compelling television ads. What ideas are you using to help solve the energy-invisibility problem?