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February 12, 2015
Neil Lessem Featured in Washington Post Article on the Links between Ideology and Energy Conservation

Brattle associate Neil Lessem was recently featured in a Washington Post article that discusses how behavioral nudges can be used to change energy conservation behavior. According to the article, different people respond to different motivations, and messaging that is helpful to some consumers may have detrimental effects on others. Dr. Lessem argues that, like any other decision, consumers do an implicit mental arithmetic, weighing the costs and benefits. Those customers who are most motivated to conserve for ideological reasons likely have already done so, which means that even though the benefit to them of saving more energy is high, the cost of doing so is even higher.

“You find that people who are ideologically not very green, usually have higher baseline usage,” Dr. Lessem says. “They’re using more power, which means that there’s more low hanging fruit, so it’s easier for them to conserve.” The challenge, therefore, is to find creative ways to motivate those consumers who have a knee-jerk reaction to conservation, such as highlighting the beneficial outcomes such as lower electric bills, instead of concentrating solely on the positive environmental impacts.

To read the full article, please click here.