CEE launched the Center for Equity and Energy Behavior in 2022 to support program administrators as they strive to ensure that customers benefit more equitably from future DSM programs.
The Center seeks to address the reality that income eligible, low-English proficient, rural residential, and indigenous communities may not participate in—and benefit from—energy efficiency programs to the same extent as their counterparts. This work also complements and enhances longstanding Behavior Committee efforts aimed at supporting CEE members in applying behavioral social science approaches to their energy efficiency programs.
This work is grounded in the learnings from CEE’s collaboration with the User-Centred Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Program (UsersTCP) of the IEA on better engaging hard-to-reach (HTR) customers. The Center work builds off of this foundation, focusing on efforts that will be most actionable to program administrators for program design, implementation, and marketing. The Center’s focus includes characterizing, prioritizing, and quantifying non-energy impacts (NEIs) to ensure programs for underserved customers are more fully valued.
Early outputs will include definitions of equity and related terminology, NEIs characterizations, equity case studies, and program summaries for both behavior and equity. Sponsoring organizations have the opportunity to guide work prioritization and provide feedback on the development of project deliverables. Involvement in this sponsored project also provides an opportunity to participate in collaborative vetting of future approaches and insight into learnings from other countries’ existing work on both equity and behavior.
Human behavior plays a key role in whether efficient equipment is purchased, installed, and properly used. Behavior also impacts the amount of energy used by technologies installed in a home, business, or plant. Successfully changing people's energy use behavior can result in estimated savings between four and 12 percent. Yet for multiple reasons, people often don’t make the most energy efficient choices.
Other fields facing similar challenges—such as public health, psychology, and sociology—have already learned a great deal about motivating people to act in a way that benefits them. For example, behavioral approaches have been used so successfully in tobacco cessation that smoking rates dropped from 42 percent to just 19 percent in the past 50 years, sparing countless would-be smokers from the devastating health effects of heart and lung disease, cancer, and stroke. It turns out the same techniques that help people quit smoking or lose weight can also help them make choices that bring them the benefits of energy efficiency.
CEE is at the forefront of leveraging the same approaches used successfully in public health and other fields to encourage decisions leading to efficient use of energy. These are choices that will leave people with lower energy bills, more comfortable homes and businesses, and lower facility operation costs.
Behavioral programs are not necessarily a separate category of efficiency efforts; rather, behavioral approaches can be effectively integrated into all programs in residential, commercial, or industrial settings. As increased connectivity within homes and businesses expands opportunities to provide energy information, the role of behavior will likely become even more prominent. Here is a sample of what CEE members are working on:
CEE is representing US and Canadian program administrators in the “Hard to Reach” Annex, a project of the UsersTCP by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Through this project, sponsoring CEE members will gain access to international learnings on effective approaches to better engage “Hard to Reach” (HTR) energy users. Year 1 of this effort, UsersTCP published an
HTR Characterization that provides an overview of HTR audiences, barriers, and definitions.
To learn more: Read additional IEA HTR project details; CEE members can view additional details, including opportunities for input, through the new HTR page on the CEE Forum
Each year, CEE compiles details on the behavior techniques applied in members’ programs and how these approaches are evaluated.
To learn more: CEE Behavior Public Program Summary, excerpted from the complete version
CEE has compiled research from various social science disciplines on the approaches that are more (and less) effective at encouraging behavior change. Behavior insights from this research are provided to members in brief snapshots with examples from energy efficiency.
To learn more: This paper includes a sample of the insights
Confidence in the persistence of energy savings from behavioral efforts is crucial for cost-effectiveness calculations, resource planning, and claiming savings. CEE compiles persistence research and practical implications from energy efficiency and related behavioral fields to help our members maximize the persistence from their behavior programs.
To learn more: Keep the Change: Behavioral Persistence in Energy Efficiency Programs, as presented at the 2017 International Energy Program Evaluation Conference, Baltimore, MD
The ability to claim the energy savings achieved from behavior approaches is vital to the widespread adoption of these techniques. CEE tracks and shares with members where, and under what circumstances, program administrators may claim savings from behavior programs. States such as California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Illinois, Arkansas, and others are allowing program administrators to claim savings from certain behavioral efforts.
Perhaps most valuably, CEE members learn from the expertise of other program administrators who have already explored specific behavioral program approaches as they collaborate on areas of mutual interest and exploration. In addition, members have the opportunity to help determine which topics CEE behavior work will focus on next and to help shape future behavioral resources.
Changing behavior presents an opportunity to make big efficiency gains in a way that also happens to be low cost. For instance, one study estimates that programs that provide people with feedback on how much energy they use—just one of many behavioral approaches—can reduce energy use from four to 12 percent. Many other behavioral techniques are just as promising.
Additionally, applying behavioral techniques to promoting energy efficiency frequently benefits programs in other ways. The increased person-to-person engagement in many behavioral programs often improves overall customer satisfaction. For example, one Canadian member utility sees a two to three percent increase in customer satisfaction each time they implement one of their community efforts. Such additional perks of behavioral approaches make them a win-win for customers, utilities, and the environment.
Behavior change involves both conservation and efficiency. While simple conservation actions such as turning off lights when leaving a room are a great start, inspiring consumers and business owners to install new weatherization measures or upgrade to more efficient equipment also goes a long way towards saving customers money and improving comfort.
Conservation and efficiency go hand in hand with increased comfort and productivity. A residential customer who adds insulation to his home enjoys a less drafty, cozier indoor environment. A plant manager who more effectively manages the energy use at her facility can improve her bottom line.
Though techniques for measuring savings continue to evolve, existing data indicate that behavioral changes can have a measurable impact.
You may find the following documents helpful in getting an overview of the topic of behavior change as it relates to energy efficiency. This list is not intended to be comprehensive. Please note that we provide these resources for informational purposes only and their presence on this page does not imply endorsement by CEE.