Document Type

Working Paper

Date of This Version



This paper develops a theoretical model of consumer demand for an energy conservation program that involves non-binding, self-set goals. We present evidence from a Northern Illinois goal-setting program, aimed at reducing residential electricity consumption, that is difficult to reconcile with standard preferences and is broadly consistent with a model of presentbiased consumers with reference-dependent preferences. We find that the need for commitment is correlated with program adoption, higher pre-adoption consumption, and lower responsiveness to goals. Consumers choosing realistic goals persistently save substantially more, achieving savings of nearly 11%, than those choosing very low or unrealistically high goals.

Working Paper Number


Included in

Economics Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.