Gamification may be become the way to save energy—if Boston-based efficiency startup MyEnergy has its way.
The company has a free rewards program via its website and is working with utilities on programs that engage customers in energy efficiency through competitions.
MyEnergy says its free software platform can access the energy usage of about 90 percent of the homes in the United States, via utility web sites that offer online bill paying or show customers’ energy usage information. That doesn’t mean MyEnergy has your energy usage data. It’s an opt-in program. Once you sign up, you can see and chart your energy usage and view comparisons of how you rate against others.
That kind of social comparison has been used by Opower, which works with utilities to send customers report cards comparing how much energy they use to others in their communities. Opower has shown about a 3 percent energy savings due to the comparisons.
MyEnergy goes a step or two further, incorporating a mix of commerce and gamification. It doesn’t make energy efficiency a quiz or a massive multiplayer game. Instead, rewards are offered for saving energy. MyEnergy users earn a point on their account for each kilowatt hour of energy saved, 10 cubic feet of natural gas saved or every 100 gallons of water saved, and the points can be used to purchase items from MyEnergy’s partners. Users can even win a month’s worth of potato chips.
“We want to give people another reason to save,” says Allan Telio, MyEnergy’s vice president of business development. “That’s part of the premise of our company.”
Team Play with Utilities
MyEnergy is starting a “Beat the Peak” energy saving program with the Minnesota Valley Electrical Coop to help enroll the coop’s customers in a demand response program. Customers can form teams and compete to win prizes. Telio says teams of over 25 people can win $7,000 or more, and a total of $20,000 is available.
This isn’t just an energy-saving contest like those done in college dorms. The program is going to work places and social organizations to recruit participants, fostering a real social component.
“Part of the reason we focus on community organizations is that it helps spread word about the programs and enhance participation rates,” says Telio. “It’s important to have someone inside an organization promote it, as that increases the likelihood of people participating.”
Telio says MyEnergy has also been working with a large gas utility in Illinois and a conservation organization in the Midwest. Its own study has found that its users have saved 14 percent on energy during heating and cooling seasons.
MyEnergy also gives users energy-saving recommendations, and Telio says tailored recommendations, based on a user’s energy usage and profile, are in the works.
And yes, there’s a social media component as well—if a user chooses. Telio says MyEnergy won’t broadcast your energy usage on Facebook, for example. “We allow people the choice to share what they want. We give users total control and total ownership of their data and we don’t force anything on them,” Telio says.
If MyEnergy can get enough utilities to sign up to its program, it may have one of the better ways to engage consumers in saving energy—by making it rewarding and fun.