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Power utility lets customers compare usage to neighbors
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Public Service of New Hampshire is looking at whether a little peer pressure can prod people to reduce their electricity use.

Starting this month, the state’s largest electric utility will send 25,000 letters to residential customers with special reports about their most recent power usage. About half will see comparisons to their own usage from the previous month, while the others will see their usage compared to their neighbors.

The comparisons won’t be between individual homes, but rather will be based on aggregated data about area residents, company spokesman Michael Skelton told The Telegraph.

He said the idea is based on an approach known informally as “nudging” — or getting people to change their behavior by giving them more information.

“That’s part of what we want to measure and experiment (with) — letting customers know how nearby homes are doing.

It may get them interested: ‘What do they have that I don’t have?’ ‘What practices are they doing that I’m not?’” Skelton said.

A 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people in California and Washington state cut electricity or natural gas use by 1 to 2 percent when shown that other homes nearby were more efficient.

The Home Energy Report program also will give customers access to an interactive Web portal where they can review efficiency tips, do an automated 30-second home energy audit and develop a savings plan. Some customers also will be eligible to earn rewards, such as gift cards, based on energy savings they achieve.