Completion of an energy audit is a proven motivator of consumer behavior change, according to recent analysis by Opinion Dynamics Corp., a consulting firm specializing in market research and energy-program evaluation.

The research was conducted in Pennsylvania, with customers participating in PPL Electric Utilities' online program, which is powered by the Aclara Energy Analysis solution. It found that customers reduced their energy use a maximum of 4.8% annually. This translated to a total reduction in usage of almost 11.6 million kWh in 2008 with some customers saving as much as 748 kWh per year.

The study looked at the behavior of customers who participated in the multi-level energy-analysis solution offered on the PPL Electric Utilities' website. The analysis is divided into three levels, allowing users to probe as deeply as they would like, with the ability to return to their own personalized energy center at a later time:

  • Level one profiles a customer's heating and cooling system.

  • Level two includes an appliance inventory and additional details.

  • Level three takes into account even more specific information about the customer's home energy usage, including water heating and weatherization.

Opinion Dynamics found that customers who completed level three of the survey in a single day saved more than those who completed only the first two levels. These consumers reduced their energy use by an average of 2.9% annually with savings reaching 4.8% at the top end of the range. Those who completed levels one and two reduced energy consumption by about 1%. In Pennsylvania, the state legislature enacted a law in 2008 that requires electric utilities to help their customers reduce electric usage by certain targets by 2011 and 2013.

“We know consumers have an interest in energy efficiency, and the challenge is to drive them to action. The Energy Analyzer provides useful information and engages consumers,” said Tom Stathos, director of customer programs and services at PPL Electric Utilities.

“With savings of up to 4.8% for customers who regularly come back to the application, we have engaged our customers and they are now making informed decisions about saving energy and reducing consumption,” he added. “More than 10% of our 1.4 million customers log onto our online Energy Analysis tool regularly.”

The Opinion Dynamics' survey looked at 570,000 records, but reported only on consumers who completed their highest level of audit in a single day to allow for an accurate comparison of savings at each level.

The model used in the study compared customer consumption prior to participating in the energy analysis, looking for decreasing usage after completion of the analysis. It also compared individual to group usage and took into account weather and seasonal factors.

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