Scandinavian Working Papers in 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 ()
Additional contact information
Andrius Kažukauskas: CERE and the Department of Economics, Umeå University, Postal: Department of Economics, Umeå University, S-901 87, Umeå, Sweden
Thomas Broberg: CERE and the Department of Economics, Umeå University, Postal: Department of Economics, Umeå University, S-901 87, Umeå, Sweden
Jurate Jaraite: CERE and the Department of Economics, Umeå University, Postal: Department of Economics, Umeå University, S-901 87, Umeå, Sweden

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

JEL-codes: D12; D83; L94; Q41

41 pages, November 22, 2017

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