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Verena Tiefenbeck: Activity-Specific Feedback on Energy Consumption Study

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Hamburg Hall A301 Auditorium

Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy

5000 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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Join Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy, the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, and the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center for a seminar by Dr. Verena Tiefenbeck, who leads the Bits to Energy Lab at the Chair of Information Management at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Tiefenbeck will deliver a presentation titled, "Feedback, Fast and Slow – A Field Study on Activity-Specific Feedback on Energy Consumption."

Lunch will be available. This event is free and open to the public.

Digitalization increasingly provides the necessary tools to collect, analyze, and communicate data at population scale. In the energy sector, millions of smart meters have been deployed across the globe, making it possible to provide timely and specific feedback to firms and households on their energy consumption. Yet, most smart metering programs have resulted in very modest savings effects, creating a wave of disillusionment among policymakers and industry stakeholders.

While recent studies suggest that “live” feedback on resource consumption (i.e., provided during a specific activity) may induce substantially larger savings, the underlying behavioral mechanisms are still unclear. In a two-month randomized controlled field trial with 517 Swiss households, we measured the impact of live vs. outcome feedback on the resource consumption of a specific, energy-intensive activity (showering). While we find large and stable energy savings of 23% for live feedback, outcome feedback induces considerably smaller savings and takes longer to unfold its impact.

The results suggest that live feedback enables a higher degree of behavioral control than outcome feedback. If we do not control for energy consumption in the baseline period, we are able to replicate the results of prior research, which attributes the effectiveness of feedback to its ability of reducing individuals’ perception errors about their resource consumption. Yet, once we control for baseline consumption, prior perception errors do not drive the savings effects.

The findings help to explain the modest impact of today’s smart metering programs and highlight that digital interventions – if implemented properly – can indeed induce considerable behavior change in individuals’ everyday activities.

Biography: Verena Tiefenbeck leads the Bits to Energy Lab at the Chair of Information Management at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. The Bits to Energy Lab is an interdisciplinary team that combines digital technologies and behavioral research to foster resource conservation. Tiefenbeck completed her Ph.D. at ETH Zurich in 2014. Prior to that, she spent 3.5 years in Boston as visiting Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as research assistant at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems. Tiefenbeck holds diplomas (M.Sc. equiv.) in Mechanical Engineering and Management from both TU Munich, Germany, and from Ecole Centrale Paris, France. Her research has been published in Management Science, Nature Energy, Applied Energy, and at leading Economics and Information Systems conferences.

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Hamburg Hall A301 Auditorium

Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy

5000 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15213

View Map

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