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Home Energy News No More Tumble Driers In The USA

October 9, 2009 – According to Alexandra Frean, US Business Correspondent of  The Times Online

National Grid seeks to push US into economic energy use

National Grid hopes that a little neighbourly competition will succeed where years of green campaigning have failed in persuading the American public to curb their apparent addiction to air conditioning, tumble dryers and other electricity-hungry appliances in the home.

From tomorrow, 50,000 of National Grid’s customers in the northeast of the United States will receive a “home-energy report” comparing their consumption with that of their neighbours.

The company, which does half its business in the US, distributing energy to 3.4 million homes, hopes to spark a little local rivalry so that, rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses, its customers will want to cut down on electricity and gas use. The reports come with smiley or frowny faces depending on how good customers have been at saving energy, by taking shorter showers, for example, or turning down the thermostat. They also offer energy- efficiency tips and anonymous comparisons with neighbours.

It is not every company that tries to persuade consumers to use less of their product, but National Grid has an ulterior motive. It has its eye on more than $100 million (£62 million) of the billions in stimulus funds set aside by President Obama for projects that help to combat climate change.

Tim Stout, National Grid’s vice-president for energy efficiency, said that it also stood to benefit from a mandatory surcharge built into customers’ bills, which could bring tens of millions of dollars back to its coffers. In Massachusetts alone, the company stands to claw back $29 million from customers if it hits certain energy-efficiency targets.

With residential use consuming 37 per cent of the electricity produced in the US, utilities are under pressure to act and most US states have mandatory energy-efficiency goals. This week a Massachusetts energy advisory council set a target of reducing consumption by 2 per cent to 4 per cent a year by 2012.

National Grid is working on the project with Opower, a software provider that specialises in behavioural science. Robert Cialdini, a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and an adviser to Opower, said: “It’s not about peer pressure. These reports are diagnostic; they tell people what it is appropriate for them to do and what is possible for them to do.”

Previous studies had shown that energy reports worked only when customers were given comparisons with their neighbours — in other words, people like them.

Original article From Times Online

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