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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Making efficiency visible – Insights on effective nudging across decision styles and choice models


Engaging consumers in energy efficient behavior is challenging. Despite most consumers consistently claiming to care about energy efficiency – and even in cases where reported consumer attitudes toward energy saving and its positive impact on the environment are high – these attitudes often do not materialise in terms of behaviour, giving rise to the “attitude behaviour gap”. This paper reports results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focused on behavioral levers at the disposal of utilities or other program administrators in engaging consumers in more efficient 1-time consumer product purchases. They are quasi-field revealed preference studies, in which participants reveal product preferences in an ecologically valid setting, namely what respondents understood to be a test version of a new consumer comparison and shopping platform for appliances and products for the home, and which they were accessing from outside of a laboratory or obvious test setting.

The studies are based on a novel consumer-facing, utility-branded marketplace platform, which has been deployed in the USA and Europe by utilities serving 47 million households as of September 2017. These marketplaces integrate energy efficiency information in two ways. The first is a relative energy efficiency score, on a zero to 100 scale, assigned to each model in a product category, which can function as either a simple heuristic (just aim for the high number) or as a clear product attribute (concrete efficiency measure).

The experimental results presented suggest that the Enervee Score works across both the “hot”, more impulsive, attitude-based (brand) and “cold”, more deliberative, attribute-based decision-making styles. The same is not true of the second piece of information provided on the marketplace, namely personalized energy bill savings, presented in dollars, for a selected product model, compared to a benchmark new product.

This growing body of experimental results suggests that making efficiency visible (with the granular, daily updated Enervee Score, as well as personalized energy savings), and injecting these cues into the modern –  increasingly digital –  shopping journey, can nudge consumers to make more energy efficient purchasing decisions, paving the way for new data-driven, market based approaches.

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