20,000 households from Chisinau reduced by 2% their electricity consumption after being informed that their neighbours receive lower electric bills or consume less. The letters were sent as part of a behavioural experiment conducted over the course of a month by UNDP Moldova and Gas Natural Fenosa Furnizare Energie.
UNDP Moldova partnered with Gas Natural Fenosa Furnizare Energie and The Behavioural Insights Team to reduce household electricity consumption in Chisinau, Moldova, in order to diminish the harmful emissions from power plants.
To achieve this goal, the partners co-designed two different letters to send to households: one of them compared a household’s consumption of electricity in KWh with an “energy-efficient neighbour”, and the other one the amount off the bill. The messages were then rigorously tested to see if they encouraged electricity conservation. This campaign was inspired by the success of the Opower program in the United States.
“We are continuously promoting energy efficiency through various projects and communication channels of our company, encouraging people to use energy in a reasonable way, saving electricity, and thus contributing together to environmental protection. The common experiment with UNDP proves that just a small action creating an awareness of energy consumption versus my neighbours, has an important impact in energy savings and confirm that the project deserves to be extended at the country level,” said Jose Luis Gomez Pascual, country manager of Gas Natural Fenosa in Moldova.
The partners tested the effectiveness of the letters using a randomized controlled trial. Gas Natural Fenosa Furnizare Energie identified about 127,000 households that used more electricity than an average household during the first three months of 2019. The households were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Two groups of about 10,000 households each received one of the two behaviourally informed letters. The other 107,000 households did not receive any letter.
As a result, the households that received the letter reduced their electricity usage by approximately two percent in the month following compared to households that did not receive any message. There was not a statistically significant difference between the two models of letters.
“As far as we know, this is the largest behavioural experiment in the field of consumer responsibility in the Republic of Moldova and the region. The results of the experiment are positive, and we’re encouraged. We are analysing whether to scale this initiative nationwide and are looking for additional opportunities to encourage consumers to behave sustainably,” said Dumitru Vasilescu, Policy Specialist at UNDP Moldova.
The content of the letters and the design of the experiment were developed in partnership with the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). BIT was founded in 2010 inside the UK Cabinet Office as the world’s first government institution dedicated to the application of behavioural science. BIT spun out of the British government in 2014 and are now a behavioural insights consulting firm whose mission is to help governments and organizations apply behavioural insights in support of public policy and social purpose goals.
The experiment was managed by the Innovation Lab of the UNDP Moldova, as part of the strategy on private sector engagement for Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and funded by the UNDP Global Innovation Facility and Gas Natural Fenosa Furnizare Energie.