#StayAtHome, but #SaveElectricity — behavioral experimentation continues in the era of COVID-19

Insights on the 2019 and 2020 behavioral experiments aimed at reducing energy consumption in Moldovan households

UNDP in Moldova
Sep 21 · 5 min read
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During the last few years, behavioral experimentation became a niche for UNDP Moldova and its Innovation Unit. The “architect” of these bold projects is Dumitru Vasilescu, Policy Specialist, who tests with enthusiasm new solutions to existing development challenges.

What does a behavioral experiment mean and when it is worth using it?

“Choose electric appliances that reduce energy”, communication material from Premier Energy company
“Choose electric appliances that reduce energy”, communication material from Premier Energy company

Why did you conduct a behavioral experiment around electricity consumption in the middle of the pandemic? You have already conducted a similar one in 2019. Why did you come back to it? What is the value added?

Unfortunately, not so many successful innovation experiments are scaled-up for many reasons, due to scarcity of resources, implementation capacities and so forth.

I am particularly proud that, despite the current crisis, we are able to scale-up the 2019 experiment and continue nudging most “inefficient” households to improve/reduce their consumption of electricity even while staying at home.

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What were the reactions of consumers?

But we are happy that the increase the targeted households is way lower than in the overall population of consumers.

Consumption in targeted households grew by 5%, whereas the overall increase is/was of about 34%.

We will closely monitor and evaluate the evolution in the consumption and share final conclusions. Overall, the evaluation shows that consumers are well receiving the tailor-made behavioral letters and that social norms continue to work.

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What challenges and unexpected turnouts occurred during the experiment?

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What are the results revealing?

Do you consider that the ‘magic effect’ of the letters could stop? What needs to be done to keep the consumers engaged and responsible even in cases when they will no longer receive letters comparing their data to neighbors?

We have signs then that in the scaling-up process, the effects will be in place for a longer period, but indeed to keep consumers engaged there is need for some amendments in the current legal framework or at least some specific additional incentives for households to behave more responsibly.

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How a behavioral experiment that encourages reduction of electricity consumption could translate in a permanent behavior?

All it requires is a bit more discipline and attention towards our daily electricity consumption habits. When all that is in place, the savings will become automatic. This is especially relevant in a context in which the operational load on existing networks is growing (particularly in urban settlements), consumers are not particularly efficient, and almost all electricity is being imported from abroad.

The behavioral experiments were conducted by UNDP Moldova in partnership with Premier Energy and funded through the UNDP’s Global Innovation Facility. The experiment was inspired by the Opower program in the United States of America.

UNDP Moldova

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