Remember peer to peer pressure in high school? There is a new company that has discovered that peer to peer pressure still works on everyone. Not so much as in keeping up with the Joneses, but in avoiding spending more than they do on something like an electric bill.
The startup company is called OPower, and they have learned that by sending utility consumers a personalized report on their energy consumption – and then by comparing them to their neighbors – people can be persuaded to save energy. All of this energy reduction reduces emissions and helps fight climate change. OPower sends utility consumers envelopes with smiley faces if they have reduced their energy consumption, and for those that increase, or ignore the savings, they send them the report comparing their behavior to others.
OPower is discovering that the consumers that get the smiley faces like the added attention of being singled out as energy misers. The company is discovering that on average people are reducing their energy use from 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent once they get the report. Might not sound like a lot, but that kind of dip is getting the attention of utility companies around the country. Utility companies are provided incentives from State governments if they can lower their energy consumption. Getting their customers to lower their energy consumption helps the utility company. Utility companies are getting on the OPower band wagon. So far 24 utility companies from around the US have signed up for the service. OPower is betting that combining their data analysis with smart grid technology, utilities will be able to help people decide whether to conserve energy and save money by replacing an inefficient refrigerator, unplugging a big-screen TV or turning the air conditioning down at night. OPowers efforts are pragmatic in their approach, providing the least capital intensive investment in lowering energy consumption by getting peer pressure to do it. Who would have thought that we are still playing by high school rules?