Keeping up (down) with the Joneses, energy-wiseSocial comparison theory got a California woman to unplug her kegerator. She learned through an innovative experiment by her utility company that her neighbors used far less electricity than she did, and so she wanted to keep up (well, down). Last year the Sacramento Municipal Utility District sent 35,000 customers their monthly energy use compared to that of 100 neighbors with similar-sized homes and the same heating fuel, as well as the top-20 most energy-efficient neighbors. A control group got standard statements without comparisons. They found that customers with the custom statement reduced energy consumption by 2% over six months. This graphic says it all.
Ten more cities have picked up on the social comparison idea, and are including bar graphs on paper statements. It would be trivial to include these charts on utility websites and embed them in monthly statement reminder emails for customers doing paperless billing. If you're in Pittsburgh, let Duquesne Light know you'd like to see this!