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CERE - the Center for Environmental and Resource Economics CERE Working Papers, CERE - the Center for Environmental and Resource Economics

No 2017:8:
Social Comparisons in Real Time: A Field Experiment of Residential Electricity and Water Use

Andrius Kažukauskas (), Thomas Broberg () and Jurate Jaraite ()

Abstract: A large body of literature shows that the provision of social comparisons can cause households to reduce residential energy and water use. In this paper, we carry out a field experiment that contributes to this literature in two important ways. First, we study a social comparison treatment that is continuous and communicated via pre-installed in-home displays, which are salient and updated in real time. Second, we estimate the effects of provision of social comparisons on two distinguished resources – electricity and water – in the same experimental setting. We find that, on average, our social comparison reduces daily residential energy consumption by 6.7 percent but has no effect on overall residential water use. The electricity savings are impersistent and occur in the evening hours, which only slightly overlap with peak hours. We argue that electricity conservation due to social comparisons is driven by short-run changes in households’ electricity saving behavior.

Keywords: Consumer economics; Electricity; Field experiment; Real-time displays; Comparison information; Water; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: D12; D83; L94; Q41; (follow links to similar papers)

41 pages, November 22, 2017

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