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Reflections on the 2012 BECC Conference

Posted by Lester Shen  |  Date November 27, 2012  |  Comments 0

Earlier this month, Lester Shen attended the 2012 Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) Conference in Sacramento, CA. This was the conference's sixth year and there were over 700 attendees. The BECC Conference is convened by the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE), University of California, and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC), Stanford University, and American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). In this post, Lester shares his impressions of this year’s conference.

Have you attended BECC before?

This was the first time that I attended BECC although we’ve had CEE staff attend the conference over the past few years. Last year Jenny Edwards presented on our home energy index and Neely Crane-Smith presented on the CES program.

Why did you decide to attend this year?

Over the past few years I had heard some really great things about BECC from Neely and Jenny. This year Jenny was planning to attend and convinced me to go too. Unfortunately Jenny was unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.

Why was it useful for you to attend BECC?

Since my time at MCAD, where I taught courses dealing with communications and interactive marketing, I’ve been quite interested in social psychology and behavioral economics, reading a lot of recently published popular books. While at CEE, I’ve been trying to integrate many of the concepts I’ve learned into our projects. Going to BECC was a good chance to catch up on the latest work that’s being applied to energy efficiency. There were so many great sessions running concurrently that I wished a couple more CEE staff had attended so we could divide and conquer.

What information is presented there? Who are the presenters?

Most presenters seemed to be from academia or consulting groups who were reporting results from utility program evaluations. See the 2012 BECC program and attendee list for more details.

Which sessions did you attend and what were the most interesting things that you learned?

All the keynote addresses were really interesting. Andy Hoffman from the University of Michigan gave the Opening Keynote: “Culture, Ideology, and a Social Consensus on Climate Change,” related to his paper “Climate Science as Culture War.” Doug Mckenzie-Mohr and Wesley Schultz gave the Tuesday Luncheon Keynote on “Effective Use of Behavior Change Tools,” which includes an effective overview and primer. 

I went to a variety of sessions ranging from home energy reports to workplace energy efficiency programs to gamification. There were many highlights among the sessions I attended. With regard to home energy reports, since the Opower program with SMUD has reached its fifth year of delivery, quite a bit was presented on the savings of that program as well as the results on persistence and spillover effects of the home reports. The presentations from the sessions are posted on the BECC site and can be found here.

What major trends did you see?

It looks like employee energy efficiency behavior is worth exploring. I noticed a couple of sessions dealing with the commercial building sector. It also seems that we need to focus on segmentation and tailor our messaging to specifically defined market segments to increase enrollment and obtain greater savings. Several presentations dealt with program evaluations, and I’m interested to see how smart meters and the smart grid will impact energy behavior.

What was the coolest thing you saw?

Antonio Rangel from Cal Tech and Brian Knutson from Stanford presented a fascinating panel on neuroeconomics. They do MRI brain scans of people as they make simple decisions to learn what areas of the brains are engaged during the process. It was cool to see the brain scans and to hear their insights about the neuroscience of decision-making. It was a great introduction to the field and definitely an area to keep track of.


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