What We Do

NSF provided core funding for SUSSTAIN, recognizing that the successful adoption of new energy technologies has a large human component beyond mere installation of physical equipment.

To date, our progress has largely featured the initiation of demonstration projects in the domains of energy efficiency and infrastructure. We have multiple SUSSTAIN-assisted research projects underway at partner institutions including Washington State University, Vanderbilt University, and Clemson University. These projects include historical analysis papers, lab experiments, and online survey-based research.

Smart Grid Project(s)

Area: Energy
Industry: Utilities
Objective: To encourage energy efficiency through consumer use of smart meter data.
The initial project(s) involves the human perceptions that pose challenges to incorporation of new two-way monitoring and feedback technology that is part of developing smart-grid innovation and infrastructure. Challenges range from consumer understanding and acceptance of digital information and controls technology located in homes and personal spaces, and worry about the cost and accessibility impacts on low income consumers (particularly seniors), to whether consumers will effectively engage with technology to improve energy efficiency. Other projects are also being prepared.

I. Information Presentation Project
Principal Investigators: Craig Parks, Washington State University; Amanda Carrico, Vanderbilt University

About: SUSSTAIN is currently working with Avista (a Washington State utility) and a multi-institution academic team to consider behavioral aspects of moving to more effective use of smart meter data.

– This project begins data collection shortly

II. Smart Grid Energy Technology Knowledge Project
Principal Investigator: Kaitlin Toner, Vanderbilt University

About: Survey-based project to understand current state of the world regarding consumer knowledge and awareness of smart grid technology

– The project is currently in data collection phase

III. Additional Publication Projects

PI: Craig Parks, Washington State University
Working Title: The Social Science of Energy Consumption
Status: Draft in progress

PI: Amanda Carrico, Vanderbilt University
Working Title: Behavioral Science and the Smart Grid
Status: Draft in progress

Infrastructure Projects

Area: Energy, infrastructure
Industry: City planning, civil engineering, architecture, construction
Objective: To encourage energy efficient infrastructure design
Our current line of research will explore how infrastructure decision-making could be “nudged” to create long-lasting energy use reductions.

I. Choice architecture to guide infrastructure development decisions that impact energy
Principal Investigator(s): Leidy Klotz, with collaborators Elke Weber, Eric Johnson, and Ruth Bell.
About: This project will identify and test cost effective ways to guide stakeholders in the infrastructure development process towards infrastructure design decisions that decrease energy use and associated climate changing emissions.
– Interdisciplinary team assembled
– Grant being written for submission summer 2014.

II. Envision as choice architecture tool
Principal Investigator(s): Leidy Klotz, Tripp Shealy, Clemson University
About: Does the choice architecture built into Envision (intentionally or not) increase the likelihood of subtractive sustainable infrastructure options? Could changes to Envision increase the likelihood even more?
– Partnership formed with ISI/Envision (Bill Bertera, Executive Director, ISI and Jenn Rivers, ENVISION rating system)
– Pilot complete. Roll-out to professional participants underway

III. Directory

We are currently creating an online directory in partnership with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences intended to foster collaboration among academics, practitioners, and policy makers that seek to use behavioral science to assist sustainability. Status:
– Site is in Beta. Final release in Fall 2014

Grants and Awards

SUSSTAIN has also been instrumental in initiating and assisting in the following successful grant proposals.

  • 2013 – 2016 National Science Foundation: Rebound vs. Gateway Effects of Pro-Environmental Behavior (NSF-SES 1325660). PI with H. Truelove, E. Weber, M. Vandenbergh, and M. Gerrard. Amount awarded: $497,949.

Projects being currently scoped for 2014-15

Additional projects also being scoped include creating methodological guides and glossaries of terms that will help potential collaborators form a common approach and language.