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2017 Recipients of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Funding for Innovative Energy Efficiency Research Projects

 

With the goal of building a robust body of knowledge about how energy efficiency investments perform in the real world, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is allocating over $1 million to fund these five promising and policy-relevant research projects.

The selected projects are:


ENERGY SAVINGS FROM COMMERCIAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY INVESTMENTS

Katrina Jessoe (University of California, Davis) and Gabriel Lade (Iowa State University)

This study will examine the drivers behind low enrollment in many commercial energy efficiency programs and the energy savings from increasing participation in them. Using an RCT, they will test whether changing default participation in an energy efficiency program from opt in to opt out increases program enrollment and leads to energy savings relative to current practices. The results will offer guidance to utilities on how to structure and deploy commercial energy efficiency programs to encourage program participation and energy conservation.


ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN AGRICULTURE: ENERGY USE, WATER DEMAND, AND WELFARE

Maximilian Auffhammer (University of California, Berkeley) and Fiona Burlig (University of Chicago)

The researchers will use data on water pump upgrades and pump-level electricity consumption to evaluate the impact of the upgrades on the energy savings, water use, crop yields and profits of farms in order to inform policy on the role of energy efficiency in the food-energy-water nexus. The study will estimate the causal effect of energy efficiency upgrades in agricultural water pumping on energy and water use, and how these impacts compare to ex ante engineering estimates. This work will inform future energy and water resource management, particularly in drought conditions.

 

THE EFFECT OF ELECTRICIITY RATE STRUCTURES ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY INVESTMENTS

David Rapson (University of California, Davis) and Corey Lang (University of Rhode Island)

This project will focus on the relationship between electricity rate structures and consumer investments in energy efficient appliances. A randomized encouragement experiment will be deployed to identify how electricity rates, in particular time-of-use pricing, affect energy efficiency investments. A second treatment group will be offered higher than normal rebates for energy efficient appliances.

 

A UNIVERSITY-UTILITY COLLABORATION TO STUDY CONSUMER RESPONSES TO ELECTRONIC NOTIFICATIONS

Tanga Mohr (Appalachain State University)

This project will study the impact of Opower-style nudges with two interesting wrinkles. First, the nudges will be delivered via text message. Collaboration with the small utility that serves the Appalachian State University campus community offers a unique opportunity to do this. Second, the text messages will be delivered to both customers who pay their own electricity bills and customers for whom the bills are included in the rent.

 

BREAKING BARRIERS TO ENERGY EFFICIENCY FINANCING FOR LOW-TO-MODERATE INCOME HOMEOWNERS THROUGH ALTERNATIVE UNDERWRITING MECHANISMS

Tony Reames (University of Michigan)

This pilot project is a descriptive study of households who are too wealthy to qualify for federally-funded weatherization assistance and yet not wealthy enough to qualify for traditional energy efficiency financing. The study will describe how large the lower-middle income energy efficiency coverage gap or “donut hole” is and provide some preliminary insight on the viability of an NGO’s alternative financing strategy.