Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Energy Savings Difficult to Sustain

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Vendors of home energy monitors (and related devices) often tout large energy savings, which are usually based on pilot studies conducted over the span of a few months. But what happens over longer periods? Are such savings sustained? This question was examined by S.S. van Dam and colleagues, who found that energy savings diminish significantly over longer periods. The authors don’t know the exact reasons, but postulate the following possibilities:

  • reversion to old behavior patterns
  • addition of new appliances over time (suggesting that a form of control be implemented in future studies)
  • rebound effect

Clearly, more needs to be done to develop and test mechanisms that might mitigate this phenomenon, such as the potential use of gaming to sustain interest, promote new energy reducing behaviors, and set new performance targets relative to peers.

In a broader sense, this study begs the question of how energy and CO2 emission reduction strategies play out over time. For example, is there an initial improvement, followed by a plateau or steady return to business as usual, and what causes this pattern? How can moving targets on energy and emissions be successfully implemented? These are critical issues for organizations as they design and roll-out energy savings and emission reduction strategies.

Full citation: “van Dam, S.S., Bakker, C.A., van Hal, J.D.M 2010 “Home Energy Monitors: Impact Over the Medium-Term,” Building Research & Information, Vol. 38, No. 5, p. 458-469.


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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