Communicating the Benefits of Efficiency Encourages Saving Energy

November 2, 2010

Media Contact(s):

Dan York, 608-243-1123 , Utilities, State, and Local Policy Program Fellow
Jennifer Thorne Amann, 202-507-4015, Buildings Program Director

Motivating customers and organizations to change their behavior can lead to significant energy savings. A new report from ACEEE, Visible and Concrete Savings: Case Studies of Effective Behavioral Approaches to Improving Customer Energy Efficiency, profiles a variety of programs that spur individuals and organizations to save energy by changing behavior in their homes, businesses, and plants. The selected case studies illustrate the results possible when applying social science to energy efficiency and conservation programs across the spectrum of customer types and the different ways they use energy.

"Helping consumers better understand their energy use, and providing them the knowledge and tools necessary to change the way they use energy are essential to achieving the full economic and environmental benefits from energy efficiency," said Dan York, Utilities Program Deputy Director. 

Social science-based programs that seek to reduce customer energy use are attracting increased interest as governments, industries, and the public expand their energy efficiency efforts to accomplish environmental, economic, organizational, and personal goals. Key factors for success from these leading case studies include making energy use "visible" to customers, setting measurable goals, providing incentives and instructions for action, and providing feedback on progress towards customer goals.

This report features profiles of 10 large, recent programs that have met a broad range of efficiency targets—from 2 to 20 percent of participants’ energy use—using a variety of approaches. “The case studies profiled in the report really show that behavioral programs can be incredibly effective, even outside of the buildings sector, where they are most commonly applied through utility programs,” noted Jennifer Amann, Buildings Program Director and co-author of the report. “Our report documents the impact of behavior change on energy use in the transportation and industrial sectors for the first time.”

“Our report discusses how employee and management programs create a corporate culture that achieves large energy savings while improving the profitability and competitiveness of manufacturing,” said Neal Elliott, Associate Director for Research. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Two of the case studies highlight the ambitious efforts by Alcoa and Dow to reduce their total energy footprint in their companies through management and employee-led initiatives.

“The transportation sector presents a diverse set of opportunities for testing behavioral approaches. Smarter driving habits, reduced vehicle miles traveled, and efficient vehicle purchases can have a tremendous impact on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in personal vehicles and commercial fleets,” said Shruti Vaidyanathan, Transportation Research Associate and co-author of the report.  Case studies from the transportation sector include EPA’s highly successful SmartWay Transport Partnership as well as France’s feebate program.

The report’s case studies clearly demonstrate that behavioral change by individual consumers can lead to significant energy and cost savings. Applying social science to energy efficiency and conservation programs can effectively guide individuals and organizations towards increased energy efficiency and reduced energy use.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. 2010 marks ACEEE’s 30th anniversary as an organization.