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Applying behavioural insights to help improve home energy savings 

The challenge: Improve the efficacy of the Home Power Savings Program

Partner: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage 

Year: 2013/14

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) was half way through its Home Power Savings Program – reducing energy use for 220,000 low income households – when it saw it wasn’t tracking as fast as it hoped (to achieve a reduction target of up to 20 per cent). It was working, sure, but it wanted greater impact.

OEH had a choice; keep going with no change and evaluate the results at the end or ‘adaptively manage’

Adaptive management is a mindset that embraces both uncertainty and learning by accepting that:

1: things don’t always work out as planned, and,

2: adjustments made along the way can improve a program’s performance.

Sounds straightforward but it can be painstakingly slow. The barriers to making changes are significant and it’s this area where much of BWA’s work was focused. 

For adaptive management to work in this case, we identified four vital factors:

1. a confident organisation that is nimble, decisive and supportive of a safe to fail culture

2. recruiting external help to fill in the gaps in the Home Power Savings Program teams’ expertise and an internal champion to keep that team onside

3. getting buy-in from the team by recognising their strengths and what’s worked so far

4. Asking, not ordering.

What else did we do?

After reviewing program materials and accompanying energy assessors on visits, we modified the program by:

– training more than 90 energy assessors in three key behaviour change principles and incorporating these techniques into household visits

– changing the format of the visits, encouraging households to discuss, agree and write down three energy-saving behaviours that they would commit to

– making communications tools simpler, with more personalised information and tips trialling three different follow-up devices used by energy assessors to reinforce commitments made by householders (SMS, phone call and a follow-up visit).

 

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What did we do?

We worked collaboratively with OEH to adaptively manage the Home Power Savings Program.

After reviewing program materials and accompanying energy assessors on visits, we modified the program by:

– training more than 90 energy assessors in three key behaviour change principles and incorporating these techniques into household visits

– changing the format of the visits, encouraging households to discuss, agree and write down three energy-saving behaviours that they would commit to

– making communications tools simpler, with more personalised information and tips trialling three different follow-up devices used by energy assessors to reinforce commitments made by householders (SMS, phone call and a follow-up visit). 

Results

BWA’s frank and fearless advice got results – staff bought into the changes because they were complemented (in both senses) the hard work already done. No one was ignored. Energy savings increased.

Award for excellence

The Home Power Savings Program was so successful it won the 2014 Premier’s Award for Excellence (in the Public Sector in the Strengthening the Environment and Communities category).

Making a switch (in behaviour) can work as well as using one (on a wall).