Local conservation leads to model for new ‘app’

Ever wondered how your energy consumption compares to others’? Curious how the neighbors’ behavior might affect yours?

Hood River utility users once set a benchmark for conscientious, voluntary conservation efforts back in the 1980s and that history is about to play a big part in influencing others across the United States.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has partnered with Facebook and Opower to develop a “social energy app” which they believe will help encourage energy conservation across 20 million households subscribing to the system.

Using the Facebook platform, users will be able to compare their own energy consumption with neighbors of similar household size and building square footage. Utility companies including an initial set of PG&E regions will be offering the service to their customers.

Back in the 1980s NRDC conducted a highly successful weatherization and conservation project in Hood River County. One of the most effective tools discovered through the process was “word of mouth,” ultimately leading to 91 percent participation in the project within the county, and significant energy savings.

The new Opower “social energy app” was created as a result of the social science research on human behavior change and energy use issuing from the Hood River project.

Customers using the “app” — not yet available in Hood River — can automatically track their use data, compare to other similar homes and enter energy-saving competitions as well as share tips with neighbors on how to conserve.

A sample comparison on energy use is available without a direct utility connection at the Opower website: https://social.opower.com/explore.

Until the social energy app becomes available to Hood River County utility users, it is still possible to obtain a reliable comparison the old fashioned way — call up your neighbors and ask.

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