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People Who Have Access To Power Meter Data Reduce Their Energy Use: Study

neighborhood at night

The simplest way to cut down on energy use isn't to build millions of brand-new LEED-certified buildings; it's to convince people to make changes themselves. And sometimes, having access to energy consumption data—and a friendly nudge to compete with neighbors—is enough to get people to do just that. According to a study [PDF] from the Environmental Defense Fund and energy-management software company OPower, Americans who get better power meter data (from both regular and smart meters) cut energy consumption by an average of 1.8% in the first year.

The study, which followed 750,000 homes in six states, offered home energy reports containing information about energy usage and, most importantly, comparing that data to neighbors' usage.

The result: Homes that received the reports homes slashed energy consumption between 0.9% and 2.9% annually. That sounds like a small amount, but the EDF estimates that cutting residential electricity usage across the U.S by 1.8% would save over 26,000 GWh of electricity, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8.9 million metric tons of CO2 each year (equivalent to the emissions of three 500 MW coal-fired plants), and help households save a combined total of over $3 billion dollars per year on electricity. That's a lot of energy savings just for redesigning a bill.

The whole "compare your energy use to your neighbor" thing has been tried before—it was the basis for the Tidy Streets project, and Microsoft already allows users to do it on its Hohm website. The Hohm site, which has been around for a year, hasn't taken off yet, but the OPower study proves that it could actually be effective in getting people to be serious about energy consumption.

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

[Image: Flickr user s_gibson72]

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  • Lila Wallrich

    Yes! This underscores the value proposition presented by Sunverge, a California company that optimizes the value of solar power by leveraging distributed generation and storage.
    Reducing consumer dependence on fossil fuels is fundamental to the mission of Sunverge, whose Solar Integration System integrates a grid-tied PV array and hybrid inverter with Lithium-Ion battery chemistry that stores captured energy for cost-effective later use. The system features a secure online portal that gives homeowners access to their personal energy information for better control of consumption as well as tracking of savings and environmental benefits. The portal also serves as a two-way communication platform through which utilities can interface with smart grid appliances to support energy management and demand response programs.
    The Sunverge Solar Integration System is currently pending installation in net-zero communities in California and Philadelphia, while statements of work are being finalized with a half-dozen national industry leaders in Distributed Energy Resource and Demand Response.

  • Chris

    We have found great results in behavior modification in the homes where we've placed monitoring devices. The adage of "If you can measure it you can improve it" applies everywhere else, why are we surprised to find it working here too? For too long the homeowner's only measurement of how he or she was doing in their electricity usage came in the form of a bill at the end of the month. 
    Chris Patterson   Bush Home Energy Solutions.

  • John Howley

    More than 20 studies in the US and Asia have found that a simple kwh consumption monitor on the kitchen countertop results in an immediate and sustained reduction in energy usage.  Too bad the data from most smart meters are being provided only to the utilities.  There would be a great benefit -- at a small incremental cost -- by just making that data available to the property owner.

    John Howley