New energy-focused microservices designed to help consumers to save money on electricity

Not everyone is going to want a pop-up notification at 2am about lower electricity rates, but for those that do, now there’s a tool that can help. Kyle Field writes an interesting article on the CleanTechnica website about a new energy-focused microservices designed to help consumers save money. It would be good to hear from EiD readers about their views on this new approach.

New Behavioral Demand Response Service Drives Consumer Engagements For Retail Energy Providers

Internet solutions company People Power has announced a new block of energy-focused microservices designed to help consumers to save money on electricity through more efficient use of electricity. The new services are bundled into People Power’s new Behavioral Demand Response 2.0 product.

The new services were designed using research and field testing developed in collaboration with Stanford University ChangeLabs which helped the People Power team tailor the new microservices for not just maximum potential impact, but for the maximum realized impact on individual energy consumption.

“Sustainable transformation in energy efficiency is possible when solutions simultaneously leverage shifts on both the demand and the supply sides of the equation. Catalyzing realistic ways of shifting behaviors through choices and options based on behavioral science principles – but which are sensitive in meshing with people’s identities, sensibilities and their daily lives – are key to changing the energy landscape,” said Prof. Banny Banerjee, Director and Founder of Stanford ChangeLabs. “People Power’s BDR 2.0 service is based on collaborative learnings from our energy-centric behavior science experts to address a global concern – more efficient energy consumption of individuals and groups.”

The resulting microservices are targeted at reaching consumers with varying needs as part of a cohesive push to improve residential energy efficiency, driving utility emissions down along the way.

The Gamification of Energy Efficiency

Two of the new microservices play on people’s competitive tendencies, giving them both the data and goals to motivate users to squeeze out every last bit of energy savings, though these clearly won’t resonate with all consumers.

The Savings Goal Challenge microservice pulls in energy usage and goes full-blown gamification by adding in energy efficiency challenges, surveys, and even a point-based rewards system. The 2010 Toyota Prius included an energy usage graph that allowed drivers to glance quickly at easy-to-read visualizations of their fuel efficiency. Putting efficiency front and center in a new, easy to read display helped make the Prius one of the most efficient vehicles on the market, and not just on the sticker, but in everyday life, as drivers competed against themselves to achieve lower cost per trip or higher fuel efficiency numbers.

People Power’s Maximum Energy Savings microservice rolls energy usage up to a summary level for the home and allows utilities to implement automated efficiency programs geared at helping them meet their own energy efficiency targets. Services like this are great ways for utilities to bridge the gap between top level energy efficiency targets and individual energy usage.

A Social Responsibility

Two of the new energy-focused microservices were developed to help groups of people track usage over time. The Recruitment microservice is a social engagement tool that allows individuals to invite family, friends and Facebook followers to join energy efficiency initiatives. The more people that sign up, the more points are earned.

The Group Energy Savings microservice allows groups — for example, an entire community, a family or an energy efficiency advocacy group — to track the energy usage of the group in parallel to efficiency improvements over time. The capability to bundle unique sets of users together would also help utilities to internally track users with different behaviors like residential detached homes with one plug-in vehicle, multi-family home with air conditioning, etc., over time to gauge trends or track progress of promotional efforts.

All the Data

The services above will likely appeal to people who care about their home energy bills while providing tools to engage others in the fun. The simple reality is that most people aren’t that excited about energy efficiency and will likely use the new microservices as infrequent informational feeds or as a reporting portal for monthly energy bill reconciliations.

The Time-of-Use microservice was built to help energy users learn about and get reminders for time-of-use energy rate changes. With time-of-use having already proven itself as an effective rate-based lever to drive behavioral changes in energy consumption, more and more utilities are looking at this type of billing scheme to send more accurate pricing signals to consumers. Notifications from the microservice can be pushed out via SMS text message and smartphone app notifications in real time.

As markets continue to evolve in response to the intermittent nature of renewables, the pricing schemes used will have to evolve as well. Giving utilities and individuals a way to stay connected to their energy pricing has the potential to provide a valuable communication service for both parties.

Finally, the Report Card microservice comes packed with features that allows users to build their own energy pledges. The service then generates weekly report cards to show progress against the targets set. Think about it like a Fitbit weekly report, but instead of tracking steps, it tracks energy. Building on pledge data, this microservice also tracks point, awards and progress against longer term goals for customers.

Energy markets around the world are changing faster and faster as local, regional and national grid energy mixes continue to evolve rapidly in response to renewables. These new tools were designed to address this change and to give consumers tools to manage their energy consumption in a more engaged manner. Granted, not everyone is going to want a pop-up notification at 2am about lower electricity rates, but for those that do, now there’s a tool that can help.


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