by Jessie Capper
Many people know the three “R”s of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, And Recycle. Although this is taught fairly early in one’s education, the current climate of our planet demonstrates that it is not engrained in, nor maintaining an influential impact on, people’s everyday decisions. OPOWER is a company committed to establishing a cloud-based platform that creates a stimulating, educating, and engaging experience to put consumers on a path towards energy efficiency (OPOWER). Although companies like Honeywell, Cisco, Google, and Microsoft are developing products and technology to detect energy usage in homes, these high-cost and high-tech solutions have proven ineffective. OPOWER has successfully expanded the use of energy efficiency alternatives using three fundamental approaches: behavioral science, analytics, and technology (Laskey and Kavazovic 2011).
Through applying these techniques, OPOWER saved roughly 400GWh of energy in 2011; this is approximately equal to one-third of the United States’ solar capacity. OPOWER recognized that one of the most effective methods was influencing the behavior of consumers. They realized that people were most inclined to conserve energy when shown data that directly compared their respective household’s energy use to that of their fellow neighbors. Along with this competitive incentive, descriptive social norms, social approval, and the use of specialized language compelled consumers to make monumental changes in their energy use. An additional ingredient to this success was OPOWER’s impressive use of data and technology. Through a persuasive presentation of personal energy-use data, OPOWER generated targeted suggestions to best suit housing lifestyles. As a result, energy efficiency became increasingly more accessible to consumers.
Although OPOWER’s models have proven widely effective, they currently face difficulty with properly expanding. Many companies hope to partner with OPOWER to supply their customers with OPOWER’s advanced platform, thereby continuing to spread this new level of consumer engagement with energy efficiency (GreenTechMedia Sept 9, 2014). One area of concern, however, is that OPOWER must ensure that it is capable of controlling this upsized consumer-base. Due to their highly personalized data analysis, targeted advice structure, and close interaction with their consumer, OPOWER’s cloud-based platform is unreliable in providing services equally effective and impactful as currently demonstrated. Furthermore, OPOWER will need to continue to update their system to reflect the ever-evolving technologies pertaining to energy efficiency. As the sector of energy efficiency advances, OPOWER must progress with it to ensure their model remains applicable to all consumers regardless of size, location, financial background, and more.
Lacey, Stephen. “OPOWER Enters Rare Partnership With FirstFuel to Expand Into Commercial Building Efficiency.” GreenTechMedia. September 9, 2014.
Laskey, A., Kavazovic, O., 2011. OPOWER. XRDS 17, no. 4, 47-51. http://www.opower.com/uploads/library/file/15/xrds_opower.pdf