Energy Powerball

We love the lottery. By some estimates, ticket sales are close to $50 billion per year in the US alone. That means the average American spends over $150 per year on lottery tickets.

Earlier this year, when the Mega Millions lottery became the world’s largest jackpot of all time, its 1-in-176,000,000 chances of winning were slightly worse than the chances of becoming the President of the United States (1 in 150,000,000). No matter how low the odds, the thrill of potentially using a small investment to nab a huge payday is infectious.

The record-setting Mega Millions jackpot was already huge at $350 million on March 27th. Then the buzz really caught on and by the next day, it was over $500 million. Two days later, on March 30th, it reached $650 million! The odds of winning never changed much. But people got excited. They saw it on the news. They talked to their friends about it. They became dreamers and optimists. And somewhere along the line, they finally got the nudge they needed to make the extra effort to find a location that sold tickets and get in the game.

At our Energy Data Jam session in Silicon Valley, a group of innovative entrepreneurs came up with a simple idea: “By linking energy conservation with a huge lottery incentive, we can give people the nudge they need to change their behavior.” Most people know how to save energy. They just need the right nudge, nag, or incentive to do it. If you knew you could win $10,000, $100,000, or $1,000,000 by adjusting your thermostat two degrees for a month, wouldn’t you do it?

Today, a team of entrepreneurs is working to develop a simple platform that will allow residential customers to drag-and-drop their Green Button data into a gaming interface visualizing their energy consumption patterns and recommending relevant conservation measures. Participants earn credits towards huge payoffs for hitting reduction targets and referring friends to the program.

This private-sector project, inspired by the idea at the energy data jam, accomplishes two goals. First, it provides a potentially compelling use for Green Button data. That is why participants can win prizes just for dragging and dropping their Green Button data onto the site and encouraging others to do the same. More than 13 million households can access data today in the Green Button format, and this number will exceed 31 million shortly. (Click here to see if you are one of them.)

Second, the project is a promising approach to drive energy efficiency through a self-funding incentive program. In the past, we saw how banks used prize linked savings plans to attract new customers and convince them to save money. Why can’t we do the same for energy conservation?

If you want to play Energy Powerball in the future, now is the time to ask your utility provider to adopt Green Button. If your utility company is not on this list, call them today and tell them you want Green Button!

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