Distributed Behavior-Based Energy Efficiency

How we can Leverage Spheres of Influence to Fight Climate Change and Achieve Cost Effective Energy Savings

Nearly every individual both contributes to growing carbon emissions (to different degrees), and has a stake in combating climate change to ensure that warming stays below 2℃. To avoid potentially catastrophic consequences in the future, scientists say we must cut carbon emissions by at least half within the next 10 years. Such a herculean task surely requires all hands on deck. So what are we waiting for? We can coordinate measurable and collective large scale climate action as individuals by leveraging behavioral interventions within our own spheres of influence. And we can begin implementing this approach by first focusing on energy efficiency. 

Leveraging Spheres of Influence

Within the context of the Social-Ecological Model developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, spheres of influence are the multiple levels (individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy) of influence that shape an individual’s behaviors. 

We can use this same model, to help us to understand the factors that cause people to take or not take action to mitigate climate change. The model also suggests that in order to get people to take action to combat climate change, it is necessary to act across multiple spheres of influence at the same time. This approach is more likely to sustain climate change mitigation efforts over time than any single intervention.

Up until now, energy efficiency efforts have primarily been focused at levels of public policy and mass marketing campaigns promoting rebates. To accelerate adoption of energy efficient equipment and behaviors to enable us to eventually reach 100% clean energy, we at MeterLeader are advocating for increased focus on organizational and interpersonal spheres of influence.  

At the organizational level, many individuals are heavily influenced by their work environment. Work is a place where we spend most of our time, it’s where we cooperate in teams, and it is also a place where many of us derive our sense of status. Employer driven climate change/energy initiatives can leverage these same factors to motivate employees to take up climate change mitigation efforts. 

At the interpersonal level, many of our relationships now exist partially or completely on social media platforms. Like it or not, social media is a convenient way to connect with many friends and family quickly, it allows for the easy sharing of content, and it enables users to keep tabs on what their friends are doing in real-time. If you see your friends posting about making real carbon emission reductions, you are more likely to be interested in joining in. 

So how do we apply energy efficiency initiatives at the organizational and interpersonal levels? 

Applying Behavior-Based Interventions

Behavioral interventions are proven methods of achieving significant energy savings. In fact a large portion of utility residential energy efficiency portfolio savings now come from behavior based interventions, primarily in the form of Home Energy Reports. Behavior-based programs are some of the most cost effective energy efficiency programs. 

But behavior-based programs need not stop at Home Energy Reports. In fact, ACEEE’s Report titled, “Reducing Energy Waste through Municipally Led Behavior Change Programs (2018)” shows us that a wide variety of behavioral interventions can yield significant energy saving results. The Report provides the following statistics:

  • Normative comparisons displayed via Home Energy Reports yield 1.2 – 2.2% in electricity savings 
  • Competitions and games can yield up to 14% energy savings for residential electricity, and 1.8 – 21% for commercial electricity
  • Community based strategies involving social interaction can yield 4.4 – 27% in energy savings
  • Real-time energy use feedback can yield 1 – 15% energy savings for electricity

Which leads us to our final question – how can we apply behavioral interventions in the context of our organizational and interpersonal spheres of influence?

Introducing MeterLeader

MeterLeader is a new cost effective way to achieve energy savings and combat climate change. We advocate for behavioral interventions in the context of organizational and interpersonal spheres of influence. MeterLeader has automated “energy saving competition” best practices and integrated proven behavioral science principles into our platform, so that users are motivated to reduce energy waste in their homes and buildings, thereby reducing carbon emissions. We make saving energy easy and fun, by employing a core learning loop (central to Game Thinking design). We help our users become as energy efficient as possible by guiding them along a journey of skill-building and mastery. 

Electricity only Challenge Format
Electricity and Natural Gas Challenge Format

We aim to empower individuals to come together to combat climate change. In more precise terms, MeterLeader allows anyone to easily create and participate in customizable energy saving challenges that are integrated with real-time energy data. Currently the MeterLeader platform integrates PG&E electricity and natural gas data, as well as Southern California Edison electricity data. We are like a Fitbit challenge, but instead of steps we measure kilowatt-hour and therm reductions. 

Users who are PG&E and SCE customers can now join available MeterLeader energy saving challenges. They get a chance to save money on their utility bills, win prizes, and feel good knowing they are combating climate change. Similarly challenge organizers (can be any type of organization) can create and maintain energy savings challenges within minutes – no energy expertise needed. Organizations, like companiesand environmental groups, can use MeterLeader to help them meet their sustainability goals, provide community engagement for their employees/members, and recognize and reward those employees/members who make significant carbon emission reductions. Challenges can be carried out by a variety of organizations targeting different participants specific to their sphere of influence. This is a new distributed approach to behavior-based energy efficiency.

Natalie Zandt is the Founder & CEO of MeterLeader. She has 10 years of experience working in the energy efficiency industry, as well as experience in UX design and software delivery management. Prior to starting MeterLeader, Natalie was an energy efficiency consultant managing residential lighting, appliance, water heater, and behavior-based energy efficiency programs for utility clients in Maryland and California. She is passionate about using data, technology, design, and behavioral science to solve big environmental problems. She is also passionate about uplifting women in the tech and business world. She created MeterLeader in order to empower everyone to measurably reduce their carbon emissions.