An Australian-first trial energy saving program, Reduce Your Juice, has today been launched to help lower the cost of living for Brisbane’s low-income renters, with program participants having the opportunity to save up to up $2851 or 19% off their average annual electricity bill2.

Created by Brisbane City Council’s sustainability agency CitySmart and funded by Australian Government, the trial program combines best practice digital and social marketing research to motivate and improve energy efficiency decision-making behaviours in the household through mobile game-playing and digital communications.

A custom-built Reduce Your Juice App, available for download on Apple and Android devices, delivers a series of mini-games that aim to virtually engage players to help them learn about energy use in the home, the impact of their behaviour on energy consumption, and their ability to make real-life behavioural changes to ‘reduce their juice’ and save money.

The mini-games are supported by a range of integrated digital communications including email, SMS and social media, providing an all encompassing digital approach for energy efficiency learning and behaviour change.

Officially launched at Queensland University of Technology’s ‘The Cube’ by the Hon. Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry and Science, it is the first time this type of learning method has been trialled in Australia for energy saving purposes, which will be tested against informational-based approaches typically delivered through mass media or face-to-face.

A key feature of the program is a series of mini-games, each with simple energy efficiency learnings – Power Raid (turning off lights and appliances), Temperature Defender (efficient home heating and cooling) and Fully Loaded (efficient washing and drying).

Its unique digital approach is set to drive energy efficient behaviours by engaging participants virtually in a fun and entertaining environment. Through the experience of game-play and communications, knowledge is gained about energy use in the home, with the aim of influencing positive energy efficient behaviours.

The Reduce Your Juice trial program involves two rounds of 500 participants aged between 18-35 years, renting in Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay and Redlands council areas, staged across two rounds this year.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the launch of the Reduce Your Juice program, designed by CitySmart in partnership with Queensland University of Technology was another way Council was working towards a cleaner and greener Brisbane.

“Since 2009, CitySmart has been working with government and corporate partners to deliver sustainable and environmentally friendly projects, and Reduce Your Juice is another fantastic program aimed at teaching our younger generations about sustainable environmental practices,” Cr Quirk.

“The trial program is an innovative program that has been designed to engage, educate and empower young adult renters change their energy consumption as well as saving money in the process.

“Reduce Your Juice will help to deliver major positive environmental outcomes for our city and help deliver on my vision for Brisbane to be Australia’s cleanest and greenest city.”

The trial program was designed in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology (QUT), whose Social Marketing Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett said not only was game-playing an innovative approach to tackling energy usage in the home, but the methodology behind the whole program to change energy use behaviour is an international first.

“Most traditional energy efficiency programs use an information deficient approach – basically they assume people lack the knowledge of how to reduce their energy,” Professor Russell-Bennett said.

“Reduce Your Juice has adopted a best practice framework using leading theory, that recognises that energy efficiency in the home is a low involvement act and that people often don’t care or think about electricity until the bill arrives.

“Through the use of social marketing based game playing, participants aren’t asked to change their values around energy use, rather through clever game play engagement, they gain increased knowledge that results in positive behavioural changes.”

To help cement positive behavioural changes as common practice in the home, a rewards program has been designed where participants are encouraged to put their learnings from the ‘virtual world’ into action through tips and tricks delivered via digital messages called ‘Powerhacks’.

Participants who play the games for 10 minutes each week over the six-week program, and complete relevant surveys to monitor the program’s success, will be rewarded for their progress with a series of rewards, including the chance to earn either a replacement energy efficient fridge or washing machine, or a Weber BBQ.

Reduce Your Juice received funding from the Department of Industry and Science as part of the Low Income Energy Efficiency Program, which trials different approaches to energy efficiency for low-income households. The data collected as part of the program will help to inform future energy policy and improve household social health, welfare and livelihood.

The first round of participants will commence the Program on 1 June 2015, and will play the three interactive games over a six-week period  – with a new game released every two weeks.

Please note: 1 These potential savings are based on participants completing the program and implementing their energy efficiency rewards.
2 Average annual electricity bill is $1,480 sourced from the Queensland Competition Authority Final Determination – Regulated Retail Electricity Prices 2014-15 (May 2014).