NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Harnessing Policy Complementarities to Conserve Energy: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

John A. List, Robert D. Metcalfe, Michael K. Price, Florian Rundhammer

NBER Working Paper No. 23355
Issued in April 2017
NBER Program(s):The Environment and Energy Program, The Public Economics Program

The literature has shown the power of social norms to promote residential energy conservation, particularly among high usage users. This study uses a natural field experiment with nearly 200,000 US households to explore whether a financial rewards program can complement such approaches. We observe strong impacts of the program, particularly amongst low-usage and low-variance households, customers who typically are less responsive to normative messaging. Our data thus suggest important policy complementarities between behavioral and financial incentives: whereas non-pecuniary interventions disproportionately affect intense users, financial incentives are able to substantially affect the low-user, “sticky households.”

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23355

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