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Everybody Loves a Little Friendly Competition

Using Competitions to Achieve Energy Savings
By Katie Ruiz - Research Assistant

Perhaps like many of you, I’d consider myself to be a naturally competitive person. If a friend says “you can’t eat that piece of pizza faster than me,” you can bet I’ll be attacking that slice like I’m on national TV in Nathan’s famous hot dog eating contest. Driving across the country with a few friends? Of course there will be some sort of game in effect that awards points for a keen eye (meaning absolutely no cat-napping if you want to win). When a day of skiing gets a little slow, you can always spice things up with a light competition, challenging your partners to do not-so-normal things like calling your mom while skiing a line.

Competitions make things fun and motivate us to take action in a way that we may not have done without that incentive of victory. Utilities, communities, nonprofit organizations, and college campuses have caught on to this idea and are using energy-saving competitions as a way to encourage customers, residents, and students to reduce their energy consumption.

There have been some exciting energy competitions and impressive results throughout the country. For example, the Take Charge! Challenge was a nine-month competition between 16 Kansas communities, aiming to save energy and money for Kansas. The four winning communities, who were victors based on energy savings and number of participants per capita, were each awarded $100,000 for the implementation of efficiency or renewable energy projects. All victories aside, the 16 communities saved a total of 110.2 billion Btu of electricity and gas with an annual value of $2,341,025. Nice work, Kansas!

The E Source DSMdat database even gives users the option of searching for energy-saving competitions by selecting “Competitions” from the Incentive Method search field. While we can’t keep track of all the energy-saving competitions out there, a general search for “Competitions” yields 11 results from the U.S. and Canada. Some don pretty cool names like Rock the Bulb Tour—Unplugged; Power Down, Add Up; and The Energy Smackdown.

The Energy Smackdown was developed by the nonprofit BrainShift Foundation. (Personally, this is my favorite competition name—the word “smackdown” means that something serious is going on.) This innovative program model challenges and supports participating individuals, households, and organizations to reduce their own energy consumption, as well as the energy consumption of others in their community. Participants from the same town join forces to form a community team, which then goes to battle against other community teams. The program is currently in its second “season,” with the towns of Arlington, Cambridge, and Medford, Massachusetts, going head-to-head. Participants are motivated by prizes offered by local businesses, free advice from energy experts (including home energy evaluations), and simply the pride of beating out their rival communities. The Energy Smackdown sets a fun stage for competition—it’s a program model worth checking out.

Does your organization offer a unique energy-saving competition that we should know about? Do you have impressive results from competitions that you’ve implemented in the past? Let us know, and maybe we’ll brag about you next!

March 2012 DSMdat updates: Added 4 new programs and updated 237 programs.

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