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Social Norms and Personalized Messaging to Promote Energy Conservation: evidence from a university residence hall
Last registered on September 13, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Social Norms and Personalized Messaging to Promote Energy Conservation: evidence from a university residence hall
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002398
Initial registration date
September 12, 2017
Last updated
September 13, 2017 1:30 PM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-08-28
End date
2018-08-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Energy costs in a campus dormitory setting are often not well understood or salient for students. They do not see billing or consumption information, making it difficult to translate use of particular energy services into costs. As a result, energy consumption is often “out of sight, out of mind” as students go through their busy days. Our research aims to enhance our understanding of how best to address these issues of saliency and understanding. Our project has two primary focuses. The first is to quantify the effects of information interventions on energy consumption. The second is to see whether those effects dissipate if the information is provided for a group of several rooms rather than for a single room. In other words, how does the level of aggregation for the information provided impact its effectiveness for reducing energy consumption? While we expect information to have the strongest effect at the room-level, individually metering rooms is costly. Therefore, understanding the impact of aggregation can help campus planners interested in using information to reduce consumption with their decisions about how to sub-meter dorms. We will conduct randomized control trials in a university residence hall, in order to test for the effect of social norms and meter aggregation on energy consumption. Our interventions will include three types of information: (1) weekly-level consumption, (2) tips for behavioral changes that could help reduce energy consumption, and (3) how the level of consumption compares to those of the average and to the most efficient neighbors. Social comparisons have been widely used by water and electric utilities because they have been shown to be remarkably cost effective, reducing consumption by 2-4\% for the relatively low cost of adding an additional section to the bill (e.g. Allcott 2011, Jessoe et al. 2017). In the context of university residence halls, previous studies have shown that these types of interventions can also be effective (e. g. Delmas and Lessem 2014). The effect of aggregation, however, has not yet been investigated. Furthermore, our study will be the first to focus on heating/cooling systems, which can account for over 40\% of energy consumption in the residential context (EIA, 2013).
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Myers, Erica and Mateus Nogueira Meirelles de Souza. 2017. "Social Norms and Personalized Messaging to Promote Energy Conservation: evidence from a university residence hall." AEA RCT Registry. September 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2398-1.0.
Former Citation
Myers, Erica, Mateus Nogueira Meirelles de Souza and Mateus Nogueira Meirelles de Souza. 2017. "Social Norms and Personalized Messaging to Promote Energy Conservation: evidence from a university residence hall." AEA RCT Registry. September 13. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2398/history/21410.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
At a weekly basis, we will send out personalized emails to students who live in a specific residence hall. Those emails will include information about the resident's energy usage, as well as tips for energy conservation. With that, students are expected to reduce the heating/cooling energy usage.
Intervention Start Date
2017-09-13
Intervention End Date
2018-05-11
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Thermostat set-points in each bedroom. Building energy usage.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
This trial is designed such that we can have an unbiased estimate of the effects of our intervention on how the students behave in terms of thermostat settings. Two-thirds of the residents were assigned to the treatment group, who will receive the emails, while one-third of the residents will be pure control.
Experimental Design Details
The intervention will have 2 treatment arms. For the treatment arm A, we will provide bedroom-level energy usage information to the students, while for treatment arm B we will provide information aggregated at the suite-level (a suite is constituted of either 2 or 4 bedrooms, with a shared bathroom). By comparing outcomes in treatment A to those in the control group, we can estimate the effect of the social norms on residents' behavior with respect to the thermostats. By further comparing treatment A to treatment B, we can estimate how meter aggregation is relevant in this context. With a pre-intervention survey, we will assess which students are more likely to engage in energy-saving activities, by employing the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale. With a post-intervention survey, we will ask specifically about which energy-saving measures were the students engaged in. Sample emails and both surveys are included in the appendix of the pre-analysis plan.
Randomization Method
Done by a computer, with random number generator in Excel.
Randomization Unit
Suite-level (cluster of 2 or 4 bedrooms) randomization.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
120 suites (clusters of 2 or 4 bedrooms)
Sample size: planned number of observations
300 bedrooms.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 bedrooms in treatment arm A, 100 in treatment arm B, and 100 in control.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Simulated minimum detectable effect between 0.7 and 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with 80% power and at 5% significance level. Standard deviations ranging from 0.2 to 0.4. The MDE is about 1% of the sample average thermostat set-point.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
IRB Approval Date
2017-08-23
IRB Approval Number
18094
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS