Energy challenges: isolating results due to behavior change
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Choate, Beth A.
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Subjectenergy conservation; Campus sustainability; behavior change; Climate neutrality; Electricity conservation; Energy challenge
Purpose – Approximately 700 colleges and universities have committed to climate neutrality, which will require significant reductions in energy consumption. This paper aims to explore the effectiveness of an Annual Energy Challenge in curtailing electricity use by changing consumption behaviors at one liberal arts college. Design/methodology/approach – From 2010 to 2014, Allegheny College (Meadville, PA, USA) ran four-week energy challenges. Electricity consumption was measured and compared to a baseline year of 2008. An alternate baseline, more granular data for 20 sub-metered buildings and historic utility bill consumption trends were further analyzed to identify any persisting change and understand the impact of behavior change separate from efficiency retrofits, changes in population and normal seasonal shifts. Findings – Electricity consumption during the challenge period dropped an average of 9 per cent compared to the 2008 baseline and 6 per cent compared to the baseline of the 4 weeks preceding each challenge. Consumption trends changed in the years during challenge implementation compared to the years before engaging the campus community. All analyses reinforce that the challenge reduces electricity consumption. However, results must be analyzed in multiple ways to isolate for behavior change. Practical implications – The analyses used to isolate energy challenge results due to behavior change are replicable at other institutions and would allow campuses to compare results and share proven strategies. Originality/value – While many campuses organize energy challenges, few have published details about the results both during the challenge and continuing afterwards. Nor has a research explored the need to put results into contexts such as natural seasonal trends to isolate the impacts of behavior change.