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Appliance-specific feedback and social comparisons: Evidence from a field experiment on energy conservation

Marcel Brülisauer, Lorenz Goette, Zhengyi Jiang, Jan Schmitz and Renate Schubert

Energy Policy, 2020, vol. 145, issue C

Abstract: The provision of feedback about individual electricity consumption is a widely used approach to promote pro-environmental behavior. This form of feedback typically invokes social comparisons by informing households about their aggregate electricity consumption relative to others. While previous research has shown that aggregate consumption feedback translates into significant energy savings, the potential for further reductions may remain untapped because households lack knowledge about their appliance energy consumption patterns. In this paper, we present evidence from a field experiment, where we provide residents with feedback about their electricity consumption, specific to a high-energy use appliance (i.e. air-conditioner). We provide the relevant social norm information by varying the reference group of each resident. We find that our appliance-specific feedback is a powerful tool to curb electricity consumption. Residents significantly reduce their average air-conditioning usage by 17% in our treatment groups. Notwithstanding, our effects are not driven by comparative feedback with respect to different reference groups. We interpret this as encouraging evidence to promote the use of appliance-specific feedback to realize energy savings.

Keywords: Experimental economics; Social comparisons; Social norms; Feedback; Electricity consumption (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: G01 G02 C91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111742

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