People Power Pilot Yields Up to 10 Percent Energy Savings By Changing Behavior

March 1, 2015
In a pilot program from People Power, a new mobile app, “Presence,” being tested in Hawaii, is yielding surprising energy savings — 9 to 10 percent — by motivating people to change their energy use behavior.

In a pilot program from People Power, a new mobile app, “Presence,” being tested in Hawaii, is yielding surprising energy savings–9 percent to 10 percent –by motivating people to change their energy use behavior.

That’s nearly three times higher than the energy savings reaped by Opower’s program, also designed to change consumers’ behavior, said Gene Wang, CEO and co-founder of People Power.

Before you get too excited, keep in mind that the People Power program is now a pilot. And so far, only 739 homeowners have participated in Oahu, where the 10 percent savings has been realized. Compare that to Opower’s statistics; the company has run its tests on thousands of customers, and uses third parties to verify the savings.

Nonetheless, People Power’s initial results are impressive and its program is unique. Its Presence app takes a round-about way of encouraging people to save energy. First, it attracts them with other features–features more appealing than saving energy. For example, consumers can pair their old smart phones with the app and use them as a security camera and motion detector. They can keep a close eye on pets and relatives this way, said Wang.

“We start out by engaging users with what matters most to them,” said Wang.

But also included in the app are energy-saving features. The program combines smart plugs with games and challenges. “For 12 weeks we challenge our users to count all the lights in their home, or find plugged-in appliances,” Wang explained. “They accumulate points and then earn rewards.”

The Presence app is free, and the utilities pay for the software, Presence Pro Energy. The savings is measured by comparing the utility bill from one month to the next.

People Power’s program participants use the Presence app in combination with Monster Plugs to reduce their overall energy consumption. “With the Presence app, in combination with Monster Wi-Fi-controllable smart plugs, users have the ability to design a home automation plan,” said Wang.

Users can control electric appliances remotely from their smartphone or tablet, and turn off unnecessary appliances to reduce “phantom loads” while they sleep or are at work.

In response to People Power’s claim that its program yields three times as much energy savings, Timur Hicyilmaz, director of consumer insights at Opower, said, “Opower’s software has been scaled across 50 million households and businesses, using methodologies verified by leading industry analysts and non-profit organizations, including the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Using behavioral science and data analytics, Opower and its utility partners have saved over 6 TWh of energy and over $700 million for consumers to date, which is equivalent to taking all the homes in Alaska and Hawaii — states with a combined total of 2.1 million people — off the grid for a full year.”

He added, “Opower’s programs have additional benefits as well. We’ve measured statistically significant increases in utility customer satisfaction as a direct result of Opower program participation. Additionally, customers exposed to the Opower platform are more likely to participate in other utility programs and promotions— which is beneficial for both marketing and energy efficiency departments.”

What’s great about both companies’ programs: For very little investment on the part of consumers, these companies are making consumers more aware of how they use energy, changing their energy use behavior, and reaping valuable monetary and environmental benefits.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

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