A Comparison of Contests and Contracts to Deliver Cost-Effective Energy Conservation

Last registered on July 21, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

A Comparison of Contests and Contracts to Deliver Cost-Effective Energy Conservation
Initial registration date
July 14, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
July 19, 2023, 2:34 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
July 21, 2023, 11:59 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

Duke University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
UC San Diego
PI Affiliation
University of Illinois
PI Affiliation
University of British Columbia
PI Affiliation
Virginia Tech

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
The energy sector in low- and middle-income countries is characterized by two stylized facts: (a) higher rates of particulate and carbon emissions per unit electricity generated and (b) low aggregate energy production and transmission losses resulting in lack of access and reliability of electricity. These concerns have led policy makers to encourage demand-side management through, for example, energy conservation programs in urban households such as tiered pricing, behavioral nudges, and direct “bonus” payments to keep energy use below a target maximum.

Urban energy conservation could help address the problem of grid balancing, that is reducing peak demand, especially as LMICs (including Vietnam where we are conducting our study) transition to a larger share of their electricity being generated from renewable resources. This is crucial to achieving the emissions reduction promise of renewable energy. However, the issue of incentivizing agents (households) to exert costly, unobservable effort (energy abatement) is a long-standing and open question in economics. In many settings, including ours, the principal (utility) observes a performance measure (energy use) correlated with agent’s effort but not the effort directly because the principal is unable to observe shocks beyond the control of the agent (e.g. weather, household demand shock). One possible solution is to use rank-ordered tournaments that incentivize relative performance, thereby obviating the need for the principal to observe common shocks. In this project, we draw on a rich theoretical and nascent empirical literature on contracts and rank-ordered tournaments to test aggregate conservation across contracts and contests and recover parameters that allow us to understand their effects at scale.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Garg, Teevrat et al. 2023. "A Comparison of Contests and Contracts to Deliver Cost-Effective Energy Conservation." AEA RCT Registry. July 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.11783-2.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Energy savings for contests and energy savings for contracts
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The research team will randomize each household in one of four groups, three treatment groups and one control group. Two treatment groups will be assigned to contracts, with each group differing in the thresholds of energy savings they must reach to win a price. The third treatment group will be assigned to contests. The duration of treatments is 30 days from mid-July to mid-August. The control group will not be assigned contest or contract participation. Participants can use their smart meters to monitor their progress by default, so all households, including the control group, will receive information about their past and current daily electricity use on the electric utility company’s app
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Individual household
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
12,000 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
4,000 households in control, 4,000 households in each treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Low variance: variance = 0.05, MDE = 1.5%, required sample size of each control/treatment group = 2,672. High variance: variance = 0.5, MDE = 3%, requirement sample size of each control/treatment group = 3,338
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Using Contests to Deliver Cost-Effective Energy Conservation in Vietnam
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials