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Utilities Help Customers Play the Energy Saving Game

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

In addition to serving as an Energy Central Community Manager, Karen Marcus has nearly 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked...

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Saving energy may have more of a serious undertone than an entertaining one, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Utilities are finding ways to use people’s love of games to get them to save energy.

Everyone Loves Games

Gamification and energy-based games are two of those ways. These strategies work based on a universal love of games. According to Nielsen’s most recent U.S. Games 360 Report, the number of Americans over age 13 who play games has risen to 66 percent of the population. That’s an eight percent increase in just the last five years. Other sources note that women and older players make up a surprising portion of that number.

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The Nielsen report also states that gamers are playing more on mobile devices (60 percent this year compared to 46 percent in 2013), giving marketers and others who want to influence consumer behavior the perfect platform to explore.


With mobile gaming on the rise, gamification is a natural way to get energy customers more engaged in helpful behaviors around their energy use. Gamification means applying gaming concepts to other uses to accomplish a particular goal. Gaming concepts include challenges, advancing to higher levels, badges, rankings, and social interaction. Utilities can create apps that mimic games to give customers a fun experience while they do the right thing for the environment, the community, and their own pocketbooks.

Gamified apps are effective because they provide motivation for completing certain tasks, offer immediate feedback on progress toward goals, and include elements of both cooperation and competition. These factors create a new atmosphere around smart energy use that’s much different from previous times, in which setting the thermostat a few degrees lower, turning off lights not currently in use, or switching laundry day from Saturday to Tuesday seemed more like chores to be endured.

While gamified utility-based solutions do mimic traditional games in many ways, they’re also different. There’s no endpoint at which participants can “win,” and the biggest “reward” is setting a good example for neighbors or fellow business owners.

In addition to encouraging improvements in energy use generally, gamified solutions can serve as a form of demand response, giving users “points” for lowering energy use during peak times.

Energy-based Games

In addition to modern gamified apps, old-school board games are helping customers understand how the energy industry works their part in it. The Game of Energy, released in 2016, has as its goal generating the most terawatt-hours of electricity. The winner gets the U.N. contract as a global energy provider. To achieve this end, players develop different types of generation to diversify their portfolios, prepare for natural disasters, and make use of new energy technologies.  

Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents includes historical figures involved in electricity in the late 1880s. Players develop emerging technologies that form the basis of the electrification of the U.S. As players develop their own companies, they compete against others and strategically trade stocks until one company emerges victorious.

The Newtonian Shift is another game that puts players in the middle of the energy industry – specifically into the outdated land of Newtonia. Players represent utilities, banks, environmental non-profits, and other entities. Players must work with each other to create a sustainable energy system while dealing with outages and other disruptions.  

Utilities can use games like these as prizes for smart energy use, or to create fun “game nights” for customers.  

Gaming has become part of many aspects of our culture, including news, education, sports, television, and music. Utilities that make it a part of their customer care strategy will find themselves many moves ahead.


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