What are some ways to encourage people to reduce energy usage? Case study of mailing energy usage reports by Opower and J-PAL

[“[S]ome utilities contract Opower, a large software company, to mail personalized household energy reports… which compare a household’s energy use to that of 100 neighbors with similar square footage and the same heating type…”](https://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/opower-evaluating-impact-home-energy-reports-energy-conservation-united-states). J-PAL performed a randomized study of the effect of such reports on energy consumption. The study indicates that these energy reports seemed to only reduce energy consumption by a few percent and not for long, mainly by acting as occasional reminders. I could imagine potential improvements including permanent reminders (e.g. a paper sign on a light switch that reminds the household to turn it off whenever they turn it on), a public posting of each household’s energy usage, or education of households about the largest electricity-using appliances like refrigerators.

More details from the study, conducted from 2008-2013: [“Researchers took advantage of the randomized design of the Opower program to study the effect of home energy reports on energy conservation. Nearly 600,000 households served by twelve different utility companies were randomly assigned to receive home energy reports or to act as a control group for the study. Researchers compared monthly electricity meter readings in households receiving reports and in control group households to estimate the effect of Opower mailings… The Opower program reduced energy consumption among treated households by 1.4-3.3 percent at each utility. The average reduction across the twelve utilities was 2.0 percent or 0.62 kWh per day. Monthly reports reduced energy consumption by 0.5 percentage points more than quarterly reports… The home energy reports caused immediate reduction in energy consumption when they arrived in the mail, but households’ efforts to conserve decayed quickly… each mailing acted as a reminder to conserve energy.”](https://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/opower-evaluating-impact-home-energy-reports-energy-conservation-united-states)