Smart Energy Choices for Iowa
‘We can save energy better than you’
Putting Friendly Competition into Energy Efficiency Strategies

CONTACT: Mike Owen (319) 338-0773, ipp(at)
Read full report: "Encouraging Energy Efficiency Through Competition" or download PDF (8 pages)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A little friendly competition may be the answer to help Iowans save energy, and dollars, according to Iowa researchers.

“You can almost hear the cheerleaders by the mailbox as you open your bill: ‘We can save energy better than you!’” said Hadley Rapp, an Iowa Policy Project (IPP) intern who examined energy-efficiency promotions that include competition among communities, or individual households. ”Competition is one way to draw involvement by many who might not otherwise think about their energy efficiency potential."

Rapp, who co-authored a report on the issue with IPP research associates Will Hoyer and Teresa Galluzzo, said some communities and utilities in Iowa already have tried this strategy.

"At Luther College in Decorah, a three-week competition saved $50,000 worth of electricity. In Minnesota, a five-year project promises to save almost $13 million a year and to reduce carbon dioxide by almost 217 million pounds," she said.

Researchers said that once people get in more sustainable energy-use patterns, it can become a habit.

“This is all about changing people's behavior, and that's not an easy thing to do," Galluzzo said. "But some are finding that tapping residents' competitive spirit can do the trick.”

According to the report, the largest and best-known competition on energy efficiency came in 2009 in Kansas, involving six towns. All residents were encouraged to help determine which town could reduce its energy usage by the highest percentage over a year.

"Organizers performed energy audits, provided tips and information about the best ways to save energy, assisted in installing technologies to improve efficiency, updated participants on progress and held events to motivate and educate participants about issues of energy independence, environmental quality, and the financial savings potential,” the report noted.

Over 11,000 people participated, saving over 6 million kilowatt hours of energy in the year, putting in place an additional 7 million in future savings.

"It was a great success," Rapp said. "Participants saved over $1.2 million in energy costs — 27 times the investment of supplies and volunteer hours. And the project grew in its second year to include 16 communities.

“It is one example of what Iowans could do, to save energy and money."

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonpartisan public policy research and analysis organization in Iowa City. Reports on energy, environment, economic security and budget issues are available at

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