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The Power of Nudging: Using Feedback, Competition, and Responsibility Assignment to Save Electricity in a Non-residential Setting


Can behavioural interventions achieve energy savings in non-residential settings where users do not face the financial consequences of their behaviour? Our paper addresses this question by using high-frequency data, leveraging social comparison and responsibility assignment in a large provincial government office building with 24 floors, a total of 1008 occupants. Floors were divided into two treatments arms and a control group. Both treatment groups received regular emails encouraging recipients to turn off appliances and lights before leaving the office and weekly ranked energy consumption results by floors. Additionally, weekly "energy advocates" were assigned to each floor in treatment group two. Floors assigned to the control group received no intervention. Findings show that floors that participated only in the inter-floor competitions reduced energy consumption by 8%, 95% CI [− 0.41, − 0.02] while those additionally assigned floor-wise "energy advocates" reduced energy consumption by 13%, 95% CI [− 0.62, − 0.05] with a substantial reduction in energy use occurring after working hours. Results, however, show no statistical difference in energy consumption between treatment groups one and two. We further investigate the intervention effect for the monthly cumulative post-intervention period. Additional qualitative interviews were conducted to enable a better understanding of our results.

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Fig. 1.
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Both Europe and United Kingdom have the same level energy consumption.

  2. At time of conducting our study (2015), pre-registration of RCTs study was not universal. As a result, the study and analysis plan were not pre-registered.


  4. Electricity consumption is transformed into logs to deal with the observed skewness of data see Fig. 4 in Appendix.

  5. That is, they didn’t receive any treatment.

  6. Friends, Schoolmates, Family members.

  7. Co-workers, neighbors, church congregation.

  8. Note due to faulty meter readings one floor was dropped.


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Correspondence to Rebecca Afua Klege.

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See Fig. 4 and Table 6.

Fig. 4
figure 4

Histogram plot of untransformed electricity consumption

Table 6 Fixed effect intervention estimates

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Klege, R.A., Visser, M., Datta, S. et al. The Power of Nudging: Using Feedback, Competition, and Responsibility Assignment to Save Electricity in a Non-residential Setting. Environ Resource Econ 81, 573–589 (2022).

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