Imagine this: You get a letter from your electric or gas utility that has colorful bar graphs and says something like this, “You used 21% more natural gas than your neighbors. That cost you about $102 extra.”
Or maybe, your electricity/gas usage compares favorably to your neighbors and your energy report is decorated with a smiley face or two.
Would that make an impression?
Illinois utility customers have contacted CUB with questions about energy reports they have received from their utility companies. CUB is putting together a fact sheet on these reports and how the utilities come up with their neighbor comparisions. If you have received one of these reports, please fill out CUB’s survey.
Since 2007, Illinois law has required utilities to run programs aimed at helping customers lower their energy usage. These energy reports are just one of many optional programs offered, such as refrigerator recycling, rebates for high-efficiency furnaces and discounted light bulbs at hardware stores. All of these programs are required to be cost-effective, meaning their money- and energy-saving benefits must outweigh the small “energy efficiency” charges that fund them on our bills.
Most of the reports are prepared by Opower, a software company that works with utilities to promote efficiency. Opower’s “smiley face” approach to energy efficiency has made national headlines. The company argues that research has shown that neighbor comparison programs are an affordable and effective way to give consumers a “nudge” to improve their efficiency. In fact, Opower’s website says the company has helped save consumers worldwide more than $400 million.
We’re gathering more information about how these reports are generated and we’ll post a fact sheet on the WatchBlog as soon as we’ve got all the details. In the meantime, fill out CUB’s survey by noon Friday, Feb. 7 and you could win four Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, with a money-saving potential of $200.