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Do smart electricity meters ‘turn on’ conservation?

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Posted July 21, 2015

Scientists test different conservation messages to find out which have the most impact on energy consumption.

Students in one of the apartments at the University of Miami residence hall are participating in research involving one of the planet's most precious commodities--water. Environmental engineer James Englehardt and his team created a "net zero" water system, which serves most of the residents' daily needs, including dishwashing, showering and laundry. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

Students in one of the apartments at the University of Miami residence hall are participating in research involving one of the planet’s most precious commodities–water. Environmental engineer James Englehardt and his team created a “net zero” water system, which serves most of the residents’ daily needs, including dishwashing, showering and laundry. Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation

With smart electricity meters, consumers can measure electricity usage in real time, even find out how they stack up against their neighbors. But, does having that information impact consumers’ electricity usage?

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), environmental economist Magali Delmas and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to find out with a unique behavioral science experiment called ENGAGE. They want to better understand both how people respond to information about the environment and change their behavior in response to that information.

Ricardo Daziano, assistant professor in the school of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, is studying human behavior and how it relates to consumer decisions about energy efficient, low emission vehicles. His research potentially could provide important insights for policy makers and transportation planners, as well as for automobile manufacturers, in advancing future sustainable vehicle designs. Credit: Ricardo Daziano, Cornell University

Ricardo Daziano, assistant professor in the school of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, is studying human behavior and how it relates to consumer decisions about energy efficient, low emission vehicles. His research potentially could provide important insights for policy makers and transportation planners, as well as for automobile manufacturers, in advancing future sustainable vehicle designs. Credit: Ricardo Daziano, Cornell University

The researchers wired 120 apartments with smart electricity meters and then tracked residents’ responses to detailed feedback about energy consumption habits. The research team found that non-monetary messages that framed electricity consumption in terms of environmental and health impacts were more effective at reducing energy use than monetary messages that framed electricity consumption in terms of cost savings.

Source: NSF

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