Maryland’s utilities are under pressure from the Public Service Commission to implement more effective energy efficiency programs. One of our major utilities, BGE, may hire OPower to help out (as discussed at the June 17 EmPower Maryland hearings).
OPower’s approach relies on re-formatting electricity bills so that consumers can compare their monthly usage to others with similar homes. It’s an application of the simple but powerful force of social emulation. OPower’s approach relies on the theoretical work of marketing guru Robert Cialdini. President Obama recently paid a visit to OPower.
OPower’s track record shows that this simple approach can cut overall power use by 2.5 percent. For an individual, it’s not much — but across a region, state or nation, it’s quite a lot of power saved.
The really important point here is the cost of achieving this reduction which is relatively small. Connect the utility database with information about house size and other consumer details, reformat the monthly bill (long overdue) and give people useful suggestions on how to cut usage.
Compare the costs of this to, say, building a new nuclear power plant.
(The Maryland Public Service Commission recently ordered utilities to change the way they present price information on monthly bills. This change will help in choosing a retail power supplier and is not primarily about energy efficiency. The Commission is also considering whether to order utilities to display 12 months of usage data on bills which might encourage conservation.)