Moving Beyond Savings: Exploring Techniques for Determining “How” and “Why” of Behavioral Program Success

Ann Dougherty, Opinion Dynamics Corporation

We know incentive programs save kWh, but we need to know how and why to replicate the savings and build on them.

Behavioral programs are actions that aren’t specifically rebated. It can be marketing, education, outreach, canvassing. As goals get higher, utilities need to find ways to get savings outside of rebates. Behavior based programs must change behavior to keep the savings coming.

There is not a clear link between the program and results with behavioral programs.

Aclara’s Residential Energy Analysis is an opt-in program by Pennsylvania Power and Light. Customers can engage in multiple levels. At the most basic level, they answered questions that were integrated with billing data to give potential savings. At level two, customers answer 25 questions and do a virtual home tour that shows savings from specific measures. The third level gives a detailed analysis by end use and provides targeted recommendations.

Using 2009 participants as the control group for 2008 participants, the evaluation found that, at levels one and two, customers got a 1 percent reduction in energy use. At the third level, savings were much higher.

Statewide Flex Your Power program is a marketing effort to raise awareness of energy use launched in California after the 2002 energy crisis. Everyone in the state is a participant.  To evaluate the program, focus groups were conducted throughout California, along with a pilot survey and interviews conducted with 1,000 California residents.

Using the purchase of a CFL as the goal, the study measured the influence of several factors from concern about global warming to actual product barriers. The conclusion was that net energy savings could be significant from marketing programs.

The programs are so young that it is hard to measure persistence of savings. The behavioral programs may be reinforcing incentive programs.

Studies indicate that in behavioral programs:

  • Information needs to be specific and targeted: this is what you need to do, this is what it will cost, this is what it will save.
  • Barriers are more important than motivation.
  • Customers are individuals, one to one messaging is more effective in motivating, especially if message comes from a member of the community.
  • Target your customers at their level, and reach them with customized programs.

If utilities use market research to take programs to next level, they will be able to create increasingly sophisticated programs.