Gaming to help cut electricity usage

The rising cost of electricity sends an important message that the availability of electricity should not be taken for granted (Electricity tariffs to rise by 2.1% for Oct to Dec; Sept 30).

As a carbon-based economy, Singapore requires more energy as it continues to prosper, while emitting a large amount of carbon dioxide in the process. Green technology can produce clean energy with little to no carbon footprint. However, we cannot solely rely on green technology as it is simply insufficient.

One solution could be the emerging concept of "eco-gamification", which leverages the principles of gaming to engage people in activities where engagement has been traditionally difficult to achieve. One example is pro-environmental action.

Opower is a software company that provides a customer engagement platform for utilities.

Research conducted by Opower shows that moral suasion and financial incentives do not motivate people to act and use less electricity. Rather, social pressure can be a much stronger motivating factor.

Opower developed a mobile app that works on the idea of a social challenge. By constantly reminding users how much electricity their neighbours are using, it has proven to be very effective in reducing energy consumption.

These forms of gamification could be applied to other resources as well, such as water.

Many of us are practical citizens. We look forward to reducing costs.

Why not save the environment while reducing our utility bill?

Perhaps, home owners could be made to pay their utility bills via the app. With the rising cost of living, consumers will be more inclined to match their neighbour's electricity consumption.

Energy use is driving climate change, and it is up to us to stop it.

Nicholas Wan Jia Shun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Gaming to help cut electricity usage'. Print Edition | Subscribe