Using the ACEEE Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs

Blog Post | December 19, 2013 - 9:41 am
By Susan Mazur-Stommen , Behavior program director

Today ACEEE is releasing the Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs, the first comparative analysis of programs that focus on changing customer behavior to save energy. 

Many utilities have undertaken behavior-based programs to help meet savings targets set by regulators and their own business needs. Our study counted 281 of these programs, many with multiple iterations, offered by 104 energy providers and third parties between 2008 and 2013.

We managed to sort all these programs into 40 different categories, each of them grounded in the behavioral and cognitive sciences and representing a unique way of affecting consumer behavior. If you zoom out, the program types group themselves into three large families:

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

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

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

We also recommend that program designers "stack" several strategies—at least one from each family—to engage multiple drivers of consumer decision making. For example, a designer might want to combine a home energy report with an audit program using a community-based social marketing approach. Holistic programs that simultaneously appeal to consumers through information, economic incentives, and social interaction are likely to have the greatest impact. 

Why did ACEEE construct this taxonomy? Once each program fits into a single category, it becomes much easier to compare the success of various strategies in changing behavior, as well their cost effectiveness and how much energy they save. Let us know how the Field Guide works for you!