We’re doing it all wrong.

We’re doing it all wrong.

Within about a 12-month time period our federal government and our nation’s utilities will have spent $5–6 billion to motivate the American public to make more energy efficient improvements to their homes.  By one measure, the effort’s working:  according to this year’s Energy Pulse (which we released Monday) roughly half of Americans claim to have done 2–3 things to improve the efficiency of their homes.

The problem?  Most of those folks say their utility bills went up.

In fact, changing only a couple of things in one’s home isn’t enough change to generate the kind of savings most Americans expect. And let’s be clear:  that’s the driver. Very few Americans are motivated to be more energy efficient out of some deep intrinsic desire to save resources, the planet or future generations. It’s all about gaining control, peace of mind and/or that feeling of superiority that comes from measurably reducing our energy bills.

So when we don’t see the savings – the extrinsic reward we’re going for – we become completely de-motivated to make additional changes.  In fact, our data documents exactly where the drop-off in interest happens.  The net effect is that today only about a quarter of the market says they’re likely to make energy efficient improvements to their homes anytime soon.

It’s time for a drastic change.  We must begin to move the market to whole home improvements, not just one-offs, which is largely how most utility programs are set up today.  If we’re going to hand out $5–6 billion in incentive dollars, let’s create a giant carrot for people to make more than five changes to their homes – which is the number they must complete to actually see the savings they want to see.  Let’s employ the principals of behavioral science to keep them engaged over time.  And let’s get our ad spending about energy efficiency up to the level of other industries that actually hold sway over the American public (the automotive, financial services, retail and telecommunications industries all massively outspend the energy efficiency sector to get their messages across).

In short, it’s time to create an energy efficiency revolution!  We’re in.  Are you?

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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