HOW THE APPLICATION OF BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE IN RECOVERY ACT WHOLE-HOME RETROFIT PROGRAMS IMPROVED OUTCOMES
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Energy efficiency programs, typically required by a state’s government or public utility commission, have traditionally utilized economics principles alone in deciding how to increase the energy efficiency of their customers. Utilities and other energy efficiency program administrators are increasingly going beyond economics principles and using behavioral science to spur the uptake of energy efficiency measures or to change the consumption patterns of residential customers. This paper examines the behavioral approaches utilized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program (BBNP) projects to increase the uptake of Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES). Research for this paper consisted primarily of reviewing the Final Technical Reports of the BBNP partners, in-person interviews, and review of academic and research reports on the topics of behavioral science, energy efficiency program design, and the nexus of those two areas. This paper identifies and discusses six successful behavioral approaches seen in multiple BBNP projects: the role of an energy advisor, community-based social marketing, simplifying program options, standardizing the practice of timely feedback and follow ups with participants, use of limited-time offers, and targeted outreach based on the specific customer. The paper also discusses three recurring unsuccessful approaches or barriers across BBNP projects, and how they were either addressed using behavior approaches or can be understood better through a behavior science lens: traditional marketing methods, canvassing, and length of program. In conclusion, behavioral approaches can enhance and expand upon traditional economic approaches. These findings should encourage energy efficiency program designers to take advantage of behavioral approaches that have proven successful.