As utilities reach for mandated targets for energy efficiency and demand response, they should consider behavioral approaches to their customers and their energy use.
The utility sector is being required to meet mandated targets for energy efficiency and demand response, while these targets often double over time. Traditionally, utilities have used various engineering-driven measures to meet these targets; e.g., offering customers compact fluorescent light bulbs or pricing programs with incentives. These measures are straightforward to deploy and measure.
Today it is widely recognized that the traditional approach will not be enough to meet escalating targets, creating a need for a more diversified resource portfolio. New approaches are required.
Utilities have begun to experiment with pilot programs that embody a behavioral approach. These programs are designed to change consumer behavior towards energy consumption, resulting in load reduction. Such behavioral approaches include any program that initiates a change in behavior that doesn't require a widget or a rebate on a "widget-based" program. A behavioral approach is not technology based.
New behavioral approaches to energy conservation represent an opportunity and a challenge to traditional management of the demand side management (DSM) portfolio. These behavioral approaches should be considered in a strategic context, tying together pieces of the DSM portfolio, leveraging real-time information from smart grid systems and then further tying into customer service and marketing/communications efforts.
To date, utilities have largely focused on providing a consumer's energy use information through reports or other means and linking that information to comparative statistics from the consumer's community, creating a competitive lever to change behavior. This is one approach—a marker, if you will, on a behavioral landscape that would leverage motivations such as fear, persuasion, commitment, etc.
Overall, the utility sector's use of behavioral approaches has been largely limited to pilots, but the savings so far are real and significant—2 percent, on average. The new behavioral approaches have quickly become one of the more importan