As initiatives that target behavior to curb energy consumption spread nationwide, competition is emerging as an increasingly useful tool to motivate people.
Comparing people with their peers is one of the most effective ways to get them to lower their energy consumption – even if they don't care about the environment. With competition in the air, given the Olympics and the U.S. presidential race, take a moment to learn how friends and neighbors embrace their competitive spirit to save energy at home and at work.
Opower is known for encouraging neighbors to compete for energy savings with its home energy reports, which feature easy-to-read energy-use comparisons of neighboring homes. But the software company has recently been making headlines for its Social Energy app, a Facebook app that encourages friendly competition among Facebook friends.
The app's competitive features include "Friend Rank," which compares your energy usage to that of your friends. App users can also invite friends to a "group" with a specific energy goal. In a group, members compare energy use, boast, and goad each other onto sometimes creative energy-saving tactics – one recent conversation revolved around the energy-saving potential of forgoing reality TV.
Although the app is only four months old and still in its beta testing stage, Opower is already seeing the signs of energy-savings to come. "What we're seeing is that people are having really authentic conversations about their energy use," said Wayne Lin, Opower's product management director. Lin noted that it's hard for utilities to generate buzz around energy use because their language can be "markety," but the social aspect of Facebook is continuously spawning genuine conversations about how to save energy.
"And if people can have genuine discussions about energy use, that can lead to behavior change and reducing the amount of energy they’re using," Lin said.
The app has over 5,000 monthly users and 800 Likes, and Opower expects that to rise exponentially as word gets around.
In the meantime, social app users are trying out some advanced competitive features, like "badges" that indicate how much of an energy efficiency rockstar you are. The badges, which get posted on your Facebook wall, indicate how many kWh of energy you used in the past month. There are 11 types of badges, including the "tree house" badge (see image, above) for those who only used 100 kWh in the past month, and the coveted "tent" badge for 50 kWh users.
Check Out the Social Energy App by Facebook, NRDC, Opower.