Energy sensing technologies will be pervasive in the near future: electricity and gas smart meters are being installed en masse; home area networks (HANs) will be commercialized within the next year with plans underway to deploy them at scale; transportation sensors that quantify miles per gallon, mode (e.g., biking or driving), and number of trips (e.g., FastTrak) are available; and HVAC diagnostics derived from sensor data are being developed. In a different vein, work in public health and psychology shows that quantification serves as a powerful tool in promoting behavior change. This is achieved directly by providing specific feedback, such as on the amount of electricity one consumes1, and also indirectly, by enabling incentive programs, markets, competitions, visualization, quantification in game and social networking applications, automated appliance control and behavior change guidance, and many other techniques. Coupled with a well-planned behavioral program, the billions being spent on sensor technologies can be leveraged to significantly reduce U.S. energy use; without such a program the investment is jeopardized because sensor information is complex and dull, and will be underutilized. The potential of this program may be derived from the potential of behavior change to reduce residential energy consumption which is estimated to be about 30 percent without waiting for new technologies, making major economic sacrifices, or losing a sense of well-being.2 This is about 11 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption – equivalent to the quantity of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions reduced by a 25-fold increase in wind plus solar power, or a doubling of nuclear power.
We propose such a behavioral program to leverage sensor data in order to achieve widespread energy reductions. We envision this program as having three parts: (I) a platform for prototyping, experimentation, and data collection, (II) an initial set of interventions and supporting work aimed at promoting energy reductions within individual households, with the work being founded upon powerful behavior change techniques, and (III) larger-scale analysis of behavior and HAN deployment through economic and engineering analyses. Through the platform, interventions and their components can be evaluated for their effectiveness quickly, easily, inexpensively, and at scale. This is possible because: (a) automatic generation and tracking of experimental manipulations is enabled because the interventions are implemented in electronic media such as an internet site and mobile applications, and (b) objective measures of behavior change are collected automatically by sensors that feed information into databases. The behavior change interventions will be implemented through the platform.
At this point in time, we have made significant progress in developing a research plan for this behavioral program. This plan spans the work of numerous faculty and disciplines – an overview is provided in the attached Figure 1. Development of the research plan formally began with a planning grant from PEEC and Woods Institute during the summer of 2008, and continued with workshops as well as meetings between faculty, students, and industry and government representatives. Several industry partners, such as Google and PG&E, are very interested in collaborating with us; this would enable us to test the platform and interventions with large numbers of subjects and additionally be well-
positioned to scale quickly. We have also identified and are planning to pursue several large grants to fund the effort, including those from NSF, ARPA-E, CPUC, The Energy Foundation, and perhaps others. However, these funds will take several months to be approved and dispersed. In the interim, several faculty and students are eager and willing to begin work in this area with a small amount of starter funds.