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Reducing Energy Use By Glimpsing Your Neighbor’s Bill

Fri, Sep 18, 2009

b. Save Money

There is a concept called “social proof” that refers to our instinct to be influenced by what others around us are doing, without our being aware of it. This concept is being effectively applied to help individuals reduce energy consumption. Positive Energy, a Northern Virginia company, has developed tools and technology that help individuals reduce energy usage by revealing what their neighbors are doing.

The company is hired by utilities to help consumers reduce usage and lower costs by creating monthly reports that detail usage by neighborhood. When the utility sends customers their reports, they get direct positive or negative feedback. Your bill may come with a row of smiley faces – “you used 46% less electricity than your neighbors this month!” – or a reprimand – “you used 51% more on electricity than your neighbors which cost you $602 extra!”

Renowned social psychologist and chief scientist at Positive Energy, Robert Cialdini, coined this phrase “social proof” and he has done extensive research on the power of influence. So far the results of the company’s work with utilities has proved successful. The pilot program in Sacramento, where customers received personalized reports comparing their bills with their neighbors, reduced their annual energy use by over 2%, a significant amount in the energy world. Now Cialdini aims to apply this progress in the energy world to address the problem with global water conservation. This theory of social proof sounds like it has huge potential to positively affect our environment. Read the full article here.

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