Posts from "August 2012"

Outlier

How Americans heat their homes: electricity now slightly more popular than natural gas

  • By Barry Fischer
  • August 31, 2012

Now more than ever, an increasing number of Americans homes are turning to electricity for heating, according to a new data release from the Energy Information Administration.

In homes built before 1970, natural gas was far and away the predominant heating fuel in new homes (installed in nearly 60% of them).  Since then, however, new homes are as likely to be heated via electricity (44%) as natural gas (43%). The remaining homes rely on heating sources such as fuel oil (especially in the Northeast), propane, wood, or kerosene.

Image Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey

Natural gas is still the key heating fuel across the entire US housing stock (a combined 50% of existing homes and new homes use it to keep warm). But what explains the increasing popularity of electric heating systems in new homes? The EIA report suggests that part of the trend can be traced to a general population shift toward warmer and drier climates such as the South, where electricity is the historically prevalent heating fuel.

Or perhaps electrification is just part of a broader trend in the way we use energy in our lives. As our home heating shifts toward electricity, so are carstrains, and even bikes.

You can learn more about trends in natural gas and electricity usage in American homes, from the US Energy Information Administration’s recently released Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

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Our Thinking

Gamification and Energy Consumption

  • By Carly Llewellyn
  • August 30, 2012

A common buzzword in the energy sector these days is “gamification.” How do you use gaming techniques to motivate customers to: 1) care about their energy consumption. and 2) do something about it?

The Opower program uses intrinsic motivation – behavioral norms and peer comparisons – to encourage customers to save. By providing utility customers with a comparison of how their energy consumption compares to similar neighbors, we are able to help people save about 2% on their energy bills.

But we often wondered, can gamification drive even more savings?

In April, we launched our Social App a partnership with Facebook and the NRDC that allows utility customers to compare and share their energy consumption with their friends. Rather than anonymous neighbors, users can see how their coworkers, family members, and friends stack up. In addition to providing peer comparisons, the app uses gaming techniques to motivate users. Users can compete in challenges, earn points and badges, and participate in groups.

A recent article in the Deloitte Review profiled the Social App. Wayne Lin, Opower’s Social product manager, notes “our goal is to foster an environment where people talk about their energy use in ways their friends can relates to. And through that, we encourage people to find ways to save electricity.” Our utility partners clearly agree; since April, 17 of our utility partners, covering more than 20 million utility customers, have partnered with the Social Application.

Analysts believe that the gamification market will continue to grow. The Deloitte article notes that by 2014, 70 percent of Global 2000 businesses will manage at least one gamified application or system.

Our Director of Market Development for the West Coast, Jeff Lyng, recently participated in a discussion with the Huffington Post Live about gamification and how to motivate utility customers to save energy. You can watch the full episode here.

What do you think? Would gamification encourage you to use less energy?

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Our Thinking

New Employee Spotlight: Tim Jones

  • By Carly Llewellyn
  • August 29, 2012

Next up on our employee spotlight is Tim Jones, our new Client Solutions Executive for EMEA.

Tim recently joined the Opower team in London to help with our international expansion in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).    Tim has over 15 years of experience working with utility organizations in the UK, Continental Europe and North America, helping them to achieve their respective desired business outcomes in the areas of customer relationship management, business intelligence, process automation, enterprise mobility and data management.

As a member of the Client Solutions team, Tim will be working with our Utility partners to deliver on the vision of making consumers happier and more efficient.

1. What made you want to join Opower?

My interest in Opower was originally sparked (if you’ll pardon the pun) after a conversation with a friend from a client organization.   He spoke so enthusiastically about Opower, a company from across the pond that offered a new type of customer engagement platform.   I took a look at the website and was extremely impressed by the purpose of the company, the engaging products, quirky photos and perhaps most of all the demonstrable, scientific evidence that Opower works!

When I came across to Washington, DC to explore the opportunity, I was even more impressed and it was at this point I decided that Opower was for me!   The combination of great people and great solutions that have a real impact on the environment has created an infectiously fun place to work.

2. What has been your favorite thing about Opower so far?

It sounds like a real cliché, but the people at Opower are great.   To be working with so many incredibly bright and talented individuals is a real privilege - fortunately there are enough people on the team that my arrival shouldn’t hit the average IQ too hard!

3. What are your hobbies?

The majority of my spare time is spent with my family, playing football, swimming and going on bike rides.

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