How Consumer Behavior Can Impact Energy Efficiency

image credit: © George Tsartsianidis |
Kristen Hawkins's picture
Sr Channel Marketing Manager, Sense

Experienced marketing leader with a 15+ year history of working collaboratively to build client loyalty and grow business across both product and professional service organizations. Straddling...

  • Member since 2021
  • 2 items added with 3,046 views
  • Jul 27, 2022

This item is part of the Energy Efficiency - July 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

There is widespread agreement that a decarbonized, digitized grid and the electrification of homes and vehicles is the most viable path toward addressing climate change. As the world moves toward this reality, a critical challenge will be ensuring that households can monitor and control their energy use, both to manage costs and ensure reliable service to their home.. 

Energy efficiency and demand flexibility programs run by utilities are important tools to get there. But historically speaking, these programs have fallen flat. Behavior-based demand response programs run by utilities typically yield less than 4% savings for customers.

Utilities need to make their energy efficiency and demand flexibility programs far more engaging to effectively address the energy transition.  Customer behavior is central to achieving demand flexibility as homes and transportation electrify. Without an active collaboration with their customers, utilities simply will not succeed in meeting their climate change goals. 

Conventional wisdom has dictated that it’s impossible to engage consumers around energy use. But the truth is, utilities just have not had the right tools at their disposal. Until now, homeowners have had minimal access to their own energy use data, and almost zero access to the kinds of detailed, real-time information that drives consumer engagement.

Previous generations of AMI meters with 15-minute interval data (which can be delayed up to 24 hours before consumers see it) simply didn’t offer utilities the detailed experience that’s been proven to engage the people behind the meter. Without real-time experience, Google Maps and thousands of other popular mobile applications would never have achieved the success and engagement levels that we all experience. 

Today a new generation of AMI meters exists that can truly engage consumers in the management of their home energy—meters that are equipped with technology developed by consumer engagement experts at Sense. Whereas other meters measure energy use in one-minute or one-second intervals, Sense-enabled meters measure a home’s electricity 15,000 times per second. This level of detail allows Sense to provide instant insights about how home devices are using energy giving customers more insights into ways to reduce energy usage or identify energy-wasting appliances that need replacing.

Sense’s high resolution waveform data analysis enables consumers to follow their energy use in real time through a simple smartphone app, which translates into greater demand response savings. Case in point: a recent study found that Sense users who actively participated in the OhmHours reward program reduced their energy usage 313w per OhmHour on average, lowering their home energy usage by 18% and increasing their average savings by 160% over the typical OhmConnect customer—far more than those realized in other behavior-based demand response programs run by utilities.  

Alliant Energy is currently testing Sense technology in 500 Wisconsin households. This program will assess how communicating with Wiconsonites in real-time about power grid constraints can reduce demand in addition to improving overall home energy efficiency. Customers will be able to use Sense technology to shift their highest home energy uses (such as charging electric vehicles or running HVAC systems) to off-peak times, saving money on energy costs and helping Alliant Energy operate its part of the power grid more efficiently and economically. 

Reduced energy consumption by providing consumers with real-time energy monitoring is grounded in proven consumer engagement principles. As the only home intelligence built around truly real-time consumer engagement, utilities will be able to take advantage of end user behavior in the same way that they currently do with Automated Demand Response programs.  

Finally, the people who actually use and pay for energy will be in control of how their household operates in a decarbonized future, working in collaboration with utilities to reduce usage for a brighter tomorrow.

Kristen Hawkins is Senior Channel Marketing Manager at Sense, where she manages the utility marketing program. With Sense insights, people and their homes actively participate in a cleaner and more resilient power grid.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 27, 2022

I wonder how these sorts of opportunities will ultimately get integrated with tools in the home like Alexa. Seems like there might be some compelling opportunities there. 

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Aug 6, 2022

Utilities have new tools, and this energy crunch is unlike any we've seen in quite some time. If prices are high enough, people will take notice and take action. Hopefully, even when energy prices come back down, those good habits will stick. 

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Aug 22, 2022

No doubt the opportunity to present compelling cases to consumers is evident today because as Kristen noted utilities have more information at their fingertips than ever before. My sense is utilities also need to change their mindset in order to take advantage of the opportunity. If you look at their traditional pitch, it usually is complex, perhaps more complex than many consumers desire. They need to take queue from consumer goods companies and focus on simple to understand metrics, like how much money they save. It is similar to computer technology. Bill Gates was great at building a sound system, which businesses liked. Steven Jobs was great at building a cool system, which consumers loved. Utilities need to morph from Gate to Jobs in order to fully take advantage of their new opportunities. 

Kristen Hawkins's picture
Thank Kristen for the Post!
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