Like so many people, I make occasional attempts to eat healthier. My latest quest was to reduce sugar in my diet. I read up on recommendations, scrutinized labels, and tried counting the grams of sugar I ate each day. That lasted about four days. It was a lot of work.

Then I thought back on some of the behavior-change strategies I’d learned about in my energy-efficiency work. When I want to stop (or reduce) some unwanted behavior, I should build up a barrier to make it harder or less appealing for me to do the stuff I want to stop doing. I’m not sure how to make sugary things less appealing, so instead, I decided to make them harder to eat. I cleaned the cupboards, either removing the things I wanted to avoid or putting them on a very high shelf that would require me to get out a step stool to reach the deliciousness.

Stock photo of a little boy reaching for a cookie jar on a high shelf

Efficiency programs typically want to encourage some new behavior—like changing thermostat settings or adjusting the time of activity to avoid peak demand times. In these cases, rather than making things harder, we should make those new tasks as easy as possible—convenient, even. Break down the barriers and build up the benefits.

Will you be at the E Source Forum next week? You can give this, and a few other behavioral strategies, a try. In our Thursday-afternoon Forum session, “Hands-on CSM: Using Behavioral Strategies to Increase Residential Participation and Satisfaction,” participants will apply a variety of behavior strategies to struggling demand-side management programs and marketing campaigns.

In the meantime, E Source Demand-Side Management or Residential Marketing Service members can check out the recently updated E Source report Efficiency Beyond Widgets: Residential Behavioral Programs and Strategies. The report highlights best practices and examples of feedback, competition, social norms, and other social-science-backed strategies that utilities can use to tweak their programs to be more customer-focused, thereby increasing participation and customer satisfaction. The table below highlights some frequently used strategies and offers suggestions for when to use the tactics to maximize effectiveness.

Behavior-change strategies

Behavior science offers a variety of strategies that can be used in demand-side management program design or for improving existing programs to make them more customer-focused. Each strategy is best used to break down a specific customer barrier to the behavior you want to change.
Behavior-change strategies

Behavior-change options are great for our program goals, but watch out—you might find yourself using them to fix your own unsavory habits!

Contributing Authors

Senior Research Manager, Customer Energy Solutions

Beth Fitzjarrald combines her physics training and interest in human behavior science to analyze energy-efficiency and demand-response programs and...