The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) was halfway 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%). It was working, sure, but it wanted to achieve greater impact. OEH therefore had a choice - keep going with no change, or embark on a process of "adaptive management".
Adaptive management is a mindset that embraces both uncertainty and learning by accepting that:
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.
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:
Changes based on this research were estimated to have contributed almost 40% to the overall energy savings for participating low-income households, which was twice as much as the figure reported in the interim evaluation (based on previous estimates of behaviour change within the program).
We also identified four vital factors that contribute to the success of adaptive management:
The program also received a 2014 Premier’s Award in the category of“Strengthening the Environment and Communities”.
We also co-authored a paper with OEH on the adaptive management process: Curtis, J., Graham, A., Ghafoori, E., Pyke, S.,Kaufman, S., & Boulet, M. (2017). Facilitating adaptive management in a government program: A household energy efficiency case study. Journal of Environmental Management, 187, 89-95.
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