Press Release

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Partners With NYSERDA to Host “Applying Behavioral Strategies to Energy Decisions and Behaviors” Conference


Two-day workshop seeks to increase participation in clean energy programs and set priorities for energy policy programs

WHITE PLAINS, NY | June 19, 2014 — The American Academy of Arts and Sciences partnered with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to welcome nearly 100 social scientists, energy researchers, and policy experts to a two-day workshop titled “Applying Behavioral Strategies to Energy Decisions and Behaviors,” at the Pace University Energy and Climate Center in White Plains, New York, on June 18-19, 2014. The workshop, co-sponsored by the Pace Energy and Climate Center and the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot program, highlighted the potential of using behavior strategies to increase participation in clean energy programs and improve overall program effectiveness. The conference will also identify priority areas for future applied research on how consumers make energy-related decisions.

The workshop was developed in response to previous studies that have found a lack of communication between policy-makers and behavioral researchers, including the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Sciences report Beyond Technology: Strengthening Energy Policy through Social Science. For example, existing behavioral research is not published in language that is easily understood by the energy policy community, in part because the existing literature is not written for policy-makers and clean energy program designers.

“This conference provided a platform for the energy policy and social science communities to share the results of new research that has been applied to clean energy and energy efficiency programs,” said Maxine Savitz, a Fellow of the American Academy and co-chair of its Alternative Energy Future initiative. “Many worthwhile energy projects are already underway in both state and federal agencies, but there are clear opportunities to make them even more effective, both in terms of costs and results, by applying insights from the behavioral sciences.”

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of NYSERDA, said, “NYSERDA expects this workshop to build a bridge between the experts in the decision sciences and clean energy program leaders. We know that the dialogue started at this conference will lead to new partnerships, innovative program improvements, and sustainable environmental benefits as New York State, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, transforms state energy systems, increases customer choice, and animates clean-energy markets.”

Participants were drawn from existing programs that are applying the available knowledge of human behavior and decision-making to the development and deployment of new behavioral approaches. These programs include several projects funded by the NYSERDA Behavior Research Program and the federal government with the goal of working with utilities and consumers to reduce energy consumption.

The group was welcomed by Richard Ottinger, Founder, Pace Energy and Climate Center; Dean Emeritus, Pace University Law School, former Congressman (D-NY). Former New York Times reporter and acclaimed environment writer Andy Revkin gave the keynote address at a dinner session on June 18th.

Panelists kicked off the workshop by presenting results from successful clean energy programs that have used behavioral strategies to influence consumers’ energy behavior and evaluated the new approaches with rigorous statistical protocols. Participants were tasked with resolving barriers to greater program success and brainstorming behavioral interventions for existing clean energy programs. A parallel research track was charged with exploring the applied value of social science and the steps needed to use it most effectively in influencing energy decision making, as well as describing how the research could be presented in such a way to program managers and policy-makers to be meaningful and compelling.

The conference proceedings will be published in nontechnical language in order to communicate the results of this analysis to the public and to the research and policy communities. The report will be available on the NYSERDA and American Academy websites later this year.




American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Since its founding in 1780, the American Academy has served the nation as a champion of scholarship, civil dialogue, and useful knowledge. As one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, the Academy convenes leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society. Through studies, publications, and programs on the Humanities, Arts, and Education; Science, Engineering, and Technology; Global Security and International Affairs; and American Institutions and the Public Good, the Academy provides authoritative and nonpartisan policy advice to decision-makers in government, academia, and the private sector.