Arlington company helps change energy habits

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

OPOWER drew na­­tional attention in March when President Obama gave a speech on clean energy jobs at its Arlington headquarters. Obama heralded the company as an American success story and “a model of what we want to be seeing all across the country.”

“Our company is a good example of job growth in a green economy,” says Ogi Kavazovic, OPOWER’s senior director of strategy.  “Last year we had 20 employees, and now we have over 100. Next year we should have around 200. We are one of the fastest growing employers in Washington, D.C.”

OPOWER is an energy efficiency and smart-grid software company. It helps utilities save on energy by giving customers easy-to-understand information on power usage.

The company works with 36 utilities in 16 states, including Dominion Virginia Power. Nearly 2 million people use OPOWER reports, generating an aggregate of more than a $16 million saving on their energy bills. Kavazovic expects that number to grow to around $120 million in the next year. That reduced demand for energy, he says, equates to the abatement of 200 million pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Reports sent to customers put their usage in context.

“If you tell someone they have used 400 kilowatt hours, that doesn’t mean much but if you tell them they used 20 percent more than the normal household in their neighborhood, then you have an addressable opportunity to do better,” Kavazovic says. “We provide them with a highly targeted list of energy-saving tips that are based on several factors including past usage and demographics.”

Behavioral science is an integral part of OPOWER’s approach. “For the most part, getting people involved in energy efficiency has had little success,” Kavazovic says. “We have learned new things about how people reason and how they are influenced. We present the information in a way that drives action.”

In June, the Alliance to Save Energy honored OPOWER with its 2010 Andromeda Award for developing a behavior-based energy efficiency program that delivers energy savings on a large scale.

“We were tremendously honored,” Kavazovic says. “It’s great to see that the industry is recognizing the impact we are having.”

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