Psychology Researchers Develop App to Cut Electricity Consumption in California

Issue 7 and Volume 121.

Greenely and Stanford University are launching the Greenely Go mobile application in California after a year of development in a unique collaboration aiming to demonstrate how effectively a newly developed behavioral algorithm can help decrease electricity usage in California. The app utilizes energy consumption data from PG&E and is now available to download for all PG&E customers free of charge.

The Greenely Go mobile app, which uses data from customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, was developed over a year. Its creation followed two years of research and development of behavioral technologies at Stanford University.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology at Stanford University have collaborated with Greenely for almost two years to study and develop new behavioral technologies for reducing households’ energy consumption to a greater extent than previously achieved. Stanford University has also verified similar technologies in other areas and achieved good results in terms of encouraging people to embrace sustainable behaviors by reducing meat and water consumption. The core of the new technology is a dynamic comparison with equivalent households.

“Many homes already receive comparisons of their energy usage to their neighbors to help encourage energy savings, what we refer to as ‘static norm feedback’. We believe it will be more influential to show people ‘dynamic norm feedback’ by highlighting that others are reducing their home energy use, which signals that energy conservation is important and that change is possible. In other domains, like water conservation, we’ve seen that learning that others are changing can be three times as effective than just comparing one’s own use to others,” says Gregg Sparkman, PhD. researcher at Dept. of Psychology, Stanford University.

Power utilities in the US have come a long way in the work of residential energy efficiency thanks to several financial instruments that encourage this, especially in California. They have established portfolios with different energy efficiency solutions and have therefore shown great interest in Greenely’s service and the results that can be achieved by the algorithms.

“We hope to demonstrate a higher energy efficiency rate than previous behavioral techniques. Following the project, the results will be presented to the major energy utilities in the United States to commercialize the service and build a business here in the United States,” says Tanmoy Bari, CEO of Greenely.

Researchers from the Dept. of Psychology at Stanford University, Greenely’s founders and a Swedish delegation consisting of members from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Swedish Energy Agency and Sweden’s Embassy, met at Jordan Hall at Stanford University last June to discuss and demonstrate Greenely’s cooperation with Stanford.

The project is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, KIC InnoEnergy, Stanford University and Greenely, and is expected to run over 12 months.