Brisbane’s experiment with a smart phone-based energy efficiency program has paid off, with a report confirming the project has cut thousands of dollars off young low-income renters’ energy bills.
The Reduce Your Juice behaviour change program, an example of gamification, involves an interactive mobile game as well as social media, email and SMS to help low-income residents reduce their power bills.
We covered the preliminary results of the program last year, which pointed to “substantial” cuts in energy use.
Now after a year of trialling, it has been revealed that the $6.8 million program initiated by Brisbane’s sustainability agency CitySmart has led to average energy savings of 12.3 per cent for the 1000 program participants and savings on average of $220 a year, with some residents saving more that $2000.
The program specifically tackled inefficient habits in youth, with the most significant behaviour change in participants being turning off appliances at the wall to avoid standby power drain. Laundry habits was another key area, with 80 per cent of participants using a clothesline over a dryer, and 85 per cent washing in cold water.
CitySmart chief executive Neil Horrocks says the results highlight that conventional awareness programs are becoming redundant. He says traditional awareness programs typically achieve improvements in behaviour of around five per cent, however the RYJ program has seen a 22.5 per cent improvement in “energy habits”.
“Our program has achieved a 22.5 per cent improvement, more than four times what you would expect from traditional campaigns that often use expensive, mass advertising methods.”
He says smart phone-based engagement means the delivery of “easily digestible, bite sized pieces of information very efficiently, in a fun and engaging way and over a longer period of time”.
Queensland University of Technology professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, who collaborated on the project, says the program was challenging and had an element of being “addictive”, which led to its success.
“The games were designed to give a real sense of satisfaction when power saving goals were achieved,” she says. “This is the key to building motivation.”
Building in “community” to the program was also important, to create a sense of collaboration, which encouraged behaviour change.
Mr Horrocks believes there’s application for similar app-based interventions to target young people around important health issues like obesity, smoking and binge drinking.
Professor Russell-Bennett agrees.
“Gamification can be applied to a whole range of social issues that require people to adjust their behaviour though encouragement, positivity and reward, rather than using ‘guilt’ as a way to deliver a message to a large group,” she says.