Conference Dispatch: BECC

by Rachel Bramwell,  Senior Strategist

Signo Uddenberg, Director of Innovation, and I attended the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) Conference in Sacramento, October 15 – 18th. The convention focuses on understanding individual and organizational behavior and decision-making related to energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and sustainability. BECC included the presentation and discussion of policy and program strategies, completed and ongoing studies, and research findings.

In the sessions I attended on “smart thermostats”, presenters focused on the big questions of:

How does weather play into how people interact with their thermostat?  How can thermostats be used to effectively regulate thermal comfort in office environments? How do you measure the energy savings from smart thermostats?  How do you change behavior to decrease energy use through smart thermostats?

One idea that was discussed extensively with regard to changing thermostat behavior was Fogg’s Behavior Model, which believes that three elements must converge at the same moment for behavior change to occur. Those elements are: motivation, ability, and trigger. When a behavior does not occur, it is likely that one of the elements is missing. Examples of triggers can include: facilitator, spark, and/or signal triggers.

Several of the presenters discussed how they used elements of this model to spur behavior in their study groups. For example, one presenter talked about how Nest has created an algorithm called Seasonal Savings, that very incrementally adjusts the Nest user’s thermostat to save energy, without the user having to change anything beyond opting in to the Seasonal Savings program. Another discussed how users report higher rates of thermal comfort satisfaction when they have the perception of being in control of their environments, so they created a self-reporting app for users to both control their environments and report on how they were feeling with regard to thermal comfort.  I also learned about other thermostat-related technology, including Comfy, an app used to regulate thermal comfort in workplaces, and Ecobee, a smart thermostat, and a competitor to Nest.

The BECC Conference is convened by American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI), and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University.

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