How the energy sector can ‘nudge’ consumers to adopt smart meters

The independent body in charge of the UK’s smart meter campaign believes the energy sector can use behavioural science to influence consumer behaviour and insists other sectors could use it to drive “mass-scale intervention”.

Smart Energy GB, the independent body behind Britain’s smart meter campaign, believes the energy industry’s ‘big six’ suppliers should be using behavioural science not only to boost uptake of smart meters but drive a wholesale change in how consumers think about energy.

Smart Energy GB was set up by the Government at the end of 2012 to deliver a national campaign for smart meters. It aims to install one in every household in Britain by 2020 and convince consumers to be less wasteful with their energy consumption.

In June, it released its first national TV ad featuring animated characters ‘Gaz and Leccy’, which suggests a household without a smart meter is “out of control”. Yet the body admits while large-scale marketing campaigns are beneficial in raising awareness, further intervention that can do what “broader, mainstream marketing cannot” is needed.

According to Smart Energy GB, energy is an “ultra-low interest” category for consumers, with two in three people having never switched energy supplier. It sees smart meters as an opportunity to re-engage consumers with energy, but acknowledges to achieve this on a large scale requires a “fresh approach”. That approach involves “nudging” individuals to change their energy habits and intervening to promote “habitual behaviours”.

Examples include encouraging consumers to spread the word about their smart meter installation on social media in return for offers and discounts. Another idea involves energy companies providing incentives, where every consumer who has a smart meter installed is instantly entered into a monthly or quarterly prize draw.

It is calling on energy providers, as well as advertisers and charities working in the sector, to get consumers excited for the smart meter roll out, as well as keeping energy at the forefront of consumers’ minds. It is now looking to work with a number of energy suppliers to trial a variety of interventions.

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO at Smart Energy GB, told Marketing Week that behavioural science has “always been central” to the campaign, but that it wants to be an “open source” so others can apply its learnings.

“The thinking of behavioural change models can benefit anyone working in the energy sector, including advertising agencies, charities, as well as the energy providers themselves,” he said.

“It is important that we have been an open source in this thinking. We are now hoping to reach the more vulnerable in society, through charities and other offline channels.”

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO, Smart Energy GB

“Our thinking on behavioural science is valuable to anyone who wants a mass scale intervention to happen. We are trying to change the energy behaviour of every single household of the country, but there are a number of other public policy areas that need to drive change across a large population group.”

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