Energy Conservation in the Absence of Volunteer Selection Bias and Monetary Incentives

Research Highlights

- We find large and persistent energy savings of 11% on the target behavior in the absence of volunteer selection bias and monetary incentives

- Findings base on a dataset of over 19,000 showers from uninformed hotel guests who did not self-select into a research study

- Nature Energy Publication featured as research highlight and in several media outlets

 

Challenge

Feedback interventions are viewed as promising behavior change strategies to foster energy conservation, and digital technologies have the potential to make them more powerful and scalable. Yet, large programs providing aggregate feedback on household energy use have failed to deliver the encouraging large savings effects reported in early studies with small samples of volunteer participants. Recently, behavior-specific real-time feedback has been identified as an alternative, more promising strategy for reducing energy consumption. Yet, it remains unclear whether the large savings effects reported can be generalized to a broader population.

 

Approach

We conducted a natural field experiment, presenting randomly assigned, uninformed guests at six Swiss hotels with real-time feedback on their resource consumption during showering. The devices measured the energy and water consumption of every shower taken. While guests in most rooms received real-time feedback in the shower on their resource consumption, 40% did not, serving as control group.

 

Results

The treatment effects are large and significant, which clearly indicates that the digital intervention induced substantial energy conservation among the uninformed sample of participants. The specific study setting with hotel guests does not only allow us to rule out volunteer selection bias, but also financial motives for behavior change. Even in this setting the digital behavioral intervention creates large conservation effects of 11.4% or 0.21 kWh per shower. The study provides empirical evidence for digital interventions as a scalable and cost-efficient policy instrument for fostering resource conservation among the broader public.

Selected publications

Tiefenbeck, V., Wörner, A., Schöb, S., Fleisch, E., Staake, T. (2018), Real-time Feedback Promotes Energy Conservation in the Absence of Volunteer Selection Bias and Monetary Incentives, Nature Energy

Funding

Swiss Mobiliar (insurance) 

Date: 2016-2018

Team

Verena Tiefenbeck, Anselma Wörner, Elgar Fleisch, Thorsten Staake 

Partners:  Swiss Mobiliar, Amphiro AG, six Swiss hotels

 


All projects on Behavioral Interventions

 Overcoming Salience Bias: The Power of Real-Time Feedback at the Point of Use

 Energy Conservation in the Absence of Volunteer Selection Bias and Monetary Incentives

Feedback, Fast and Slow: Effect of Live vs. Outcome Feedback

 


Don't Kill the Polar Bear: Symbolic Representation in Energy Efficiency Programs

Moral Licensing: Evidence from a Field Study

 

Adoption and Usage: Consumer Interaction with Green IS

  


CONTACT US

For further information or if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.