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Prose, Friedemann & Wortmann, Klaus (1991 b). A Consumer Initiative for better Lighting- Negawatt for Megawatt.

Paper given to: 1st European Conference on Energy-Efficient Lighting, Stockholm, May 28-30, 1991

A Consumer Initiative for better Lighting
and Energy Saving - Negawatt for Megawatt

Friedemann Prose & Klaus Wortmann (1991 b)


Department of Psychology, University of Kiel (Germany)

Paper given to: 1st European Conference on Energy-Efficient Lighting, Stockholm, May 28-30, 1991
German version : Negawatt statt Megawatt: Eine Energiesparlampen-Aktion, Jahrbuch Ökologie, 1992, C.H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, München 1991, pp. 174 - 185


"Negawatt for Megawatt" is a campaign for compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), that was conducted from November 1990 until Easter 1991 in the state of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). The campaign was initiated by the "climate protection" research team at Kiel university. In the design of the campaign strategies of social marketing and rules of the diffusion of innovations were used to stimulate the participation of as many households as possible. Information about the action was distributed by leaflets and numerous newspaper reports. An estimated 20.000 CFL´s were bought due to the campaign. A household survey in Kiel (March 1991, N = 781) allowed an evaluation and showed some differences between those who purchased CFL and those who purchased not.


  1. Introduction
  2. Timing
  3. Communication strategy
  4. Product
  5. Distribution
    • 5.1. Sponsors
    • 5.2. Distribution networks
    • 5.3. Distribution by concerned citizens

  6.  Promotion
    • 6.1. Activities
    • 6.2. Supporters
    • 6.3. Public Relations (PR)

  7. Evaluation
    • 7.1. Telephone calls and Mail
    • 7.2. Citizens´ activities
    • 7.3. Public Relations (PR)
    • 7.4. Feedback
    • 7.5. Kiel household survey data
      • 7.5.1. Purchase of CFLs during the campaign
      • 7.5.2. Estimation of the number of CFL-purchases as a result of the campaign - Kiel
      • 7.5.3. Estimation of the number of CFL-purchases as a result of the campaign - statewide
      • 7.5.4. Effects outside Schleswig-Holstein
      • 7.5.5. Campaign costs

  8. Concluding Remarks

A Consumer Initiative for Better Lighting and Energy Saving -
Negawatt for Megawatt

1. Introduction

The campaign "Negawatt for Megawatt" took place from November 1990 until Easter 1991 in Schleswig-Holstein (Northern Germany). The goal of this campaign was to have as many citizens as possible purchase CFLs (Compact Flourescent Lamps) within a limited time frame. "Negawatt for Megawatt" was initiated within a research project at the University of Kiel by the two authors. The purpose of this research project is to develop marketing strategies to promote energy conservation. This can also be referred to as non-profit marketing, social marketing or ecological marketing. Currently we are working on a segmentation of target groups for energy conservation based on a household survey which has just been completed. Another part of the project deals with possibilities to better coordinate energy counseling services outside the energy utilities domain and to improve these by initiating a marketing-service. In other words: We are concerned with demand side management.

The "Negawatt for Megawatt" campaign is a pilot project to test the potential of low cost, community-based energy saving campaigns, which are promoted through citizens´ activities instead of financial incentives. We can´t present "the perfect campaign", rather a cost-effective campaign which has been proved successful and through it´s structure can provide the basis for effective campaigns in the future.

2. Timing

Timing is an essential factor in the realization of a campaign. We suggested that the dark season of the year would be the best time to direct the public´s attention toward lighting efficiency. In the beginning of November a "climate protection week" took place in Kiel, in which different environmental protection groups made an effort to bring, through information and events, the problems of the ozone and greenhouse effect to public attention. Within the framework of this climate protection week the first author organized a public event dealing with energy saving measures on the local and private level. During this event 60 CFLs, as well as an energy saving washing machine and an extremely energy efficient refrigerator, were raffled. The public was informed through leaflets, a press release and a balloon release at which the city president was present. More than 200 people took part in this event. Through these activities the themes of climate protection and energy conservation were on the agenda. So, we had good conditions for the beginning of our campaign.

Through preliminary surveys we knew that the majority of people consider the greenhouse effect to be a serious threat. The connection between climate, CO2-emissionsand the use of primary energy is often unclear. So, the psychological situation is characterized by a sense of little personal control and limited possibilities to react to this problem. We positioned our campaign as a climate protection campaign through energy conservation and promoted the installation of CFL´s as a step toward climate protection, which could easily be done by everyone.

3. Communication strategy

We planned our communication strategy by referring to theories and outcomes of persuasion research.

  • The personal concern about the greenhouse effect as well as the sense of personal responsibility for the reduction of CO2-emissions is a prerequisite for a positive and stable attitude to energy conservation and the corresponding personal behavior. Personal concern and responsebility must be taken into consideration.
  • People undertake action only when the behavior recommended in the campaign is seen as efficient and they see themselves in the position to carry out this behavior. Electricity conservation through CFL must be established as an efficient means for CO2-reduction and the installation of CFLs as a simple procedure.
  • People turn their intentions into actions, when there is a clear, realizable goal with a certain degree of difficulty. We promoted the purchase of of two CFLs and suggested a time frame of "by Christmas" or, respectively, in the statewide phase of the campaign "by Easter".
  • People sustain a behavior (here: energy saving), when they have shown public commitment. This is why we asked consumers to buy two CFLs, one for themselves and one as a gift. A gift of a CFL is a bit unusual and would most definitely need an explanation. By doing so the gift-giver almost would need to explain his positive attitude toward energy conservation and define himself as an "energy conserver".
    In addition to the purchase of CFLs, at least some people needed to be motivated to a further commitment and convinced to act as multipliers in the promotion of this idea.
  • Feedback concerning the success of behavior has been demonstrated as an effective means for behavior change. Individual feedback about energy savings would have been uneconomical and unrealizable. Therefore we defined the success of the campaign not as an individual household savings rather a conceivable collective savings (an annual electricity conservation of about 1 million kWh and a corresponding avoidance of 1000 tons CO2). This is feasible with the participation of 10.000 households, each buying two CFLs. Respectively, feedback-procedure had to be related to this goal. Participants were requested to indicate the the number and Watt of the CFLs and the at the city neighborhood (Kiel) and/or community (Schleswig-Holstein), where the CFLs were installed. Thus, we were able to give feedback about the number of persons in every neigborhood, community, district and in the entire state, who had participated in the campaign. We published our feedback results by neighborhoods in the newspapers in order to increase motivation. The underlying assumption was, that people identify themselves with their neighborhood. This was one of the main features of the campaign.

4. Product

Our product was not the CFL itself, rather the idea "climate protection by saving energy with CFLs". This product took the form of a message (leaflet ) designed according to the communication strategy described above. As the product name we chose "Power Plant Energy Saving - Negawatt for Megawatt". The press took over the second part of the slogan and therefore the campaign became known as "Negawatt for Megawatt".

5. Distribution

The leaflets were printed in three versions: one with the goal "2500 x 2 by Christmas" was directed only toward the citizens of Kiel. The second with the goal "10.000 x 2 by Christmas" directed itself toward the entire population of Schleswig-Holstein and a slightly modified version with the goal "10.000 x 2 by Easter" was used in the last phase of the campaign. A total of 200.000 leaflets was printed.

5.1 Sponsors

Sponsors financed the printing. The sponsors´ logo was printed on the reverse side of the leaflets. A portion of the leaflets were distributed statewide by the sponsors to their employees and customers. In this way the sponsors acted as distributors as well. A variety of organizations served as sponsors: Credit institutes, environmental protection and consumer advisory agencies, local utility companies, super markets, an insurance agency, a health insurance companie and an apartment administration. By having a sponsor system not only was a statewide distribution guaranteed but also a wide representation of different segments of the population.

5.2. Distribution networks

In order to get the leaflets to the customer we used existing social groups, such as clubs and polical parties. In this way the leaflets were distributed extensively throughout the state by the lutheran church, the state sports organization, welfare agencies, and labor unions. A large majority of the representatives of the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament took thousands of our leaflets to their voting districts. Additionally, especially in Kiel, we used existing postal distribution networks at the workplace, such as large factories, city administration offices, schools, university and colleges, pharmacies and small businesses.

5.3. Distribution by concerned citizens

Concerned citizens in the different Kiel neighborhoods and other communities throughout Schleswig-Holstein took it upon themselves to deliver our leaflets to individual households. Some of these citizens also took the initiative to photocopy the leaflets at their own expense.

6. Promotion

Additional activities started by citizens, public statements by opinion leaders and intensive and continous press coverage supported the idea "Negawatt for Megawatt".

6.1 Activities

We also became aware of a variety of other activities organized by concerned citizens in addition to the active distribution mentioned above. Environmental protection groups and a peace group set up booths in different communities to promote the campaign. Students bought 100 CFLs at their own expense and organized an information stand where these CFLs were then sold without a profit margin. Energy conservation became as a result of the campaign the subject of lessons in some schools and student teachers also used this idea in their lesson plans. Also impressive was the initiative of one retired gentleman who, in his retirement home, introduced his neighbors to CFLs, demonstrated vividly their installation and therefore encouraged their participation in "Negawatt for Megawatt". The mayor of Kiel also proclaimed, that at future recognition of service award ceremonies, CFLs were to be presented as gifts.

6.2 Supporters

Through a direct mailing service we turned to politicians of all parties and asked for their support. We became aware of a number of cases in which politicians of all levels recommended our campaign to the public. The support on the community level from civic groups and the chairmen of environmental committees were especially important. Shortly before Easter, during the final pase of the campaign, the president of the state parliament spoke an behalf of all it´s members in support of the campaign, and asked the public to participate. It was very important that the campaign remained above party politics and that it was supported by all parties in the parliament.

6.3 Public Relations (PR)

In addition to the motivating message, the distribution of leaflets within the communities and neighborhoods and the different supporting acitvities, our own systematic public relations was a central factor for the success of the campaign. During the first phase of PR, we spread our message printed on the leaflets and requested feedback through all available media statewide. It was possible to communicate additional visual information through press photos concerning the CFLs appearance and the positive impact on the environment. To do this we filled eight fifty pound bags to represent the CO2-reduction. In the second phase of PR the success of the feedback was emphasized in order to motivate further participation. In Kiel we counted the replies and listed them by neighborhoods with a high participation level which acted as an incentive for those neighborhoods with a low participation level. Statewide our lists were published according to communities and districts much in the same way. This strong regional-and municipal-related feedback was supplemented from time to time by statewide data about the course of the campaign, which was given to press agencies for a statewide report.

7. Evaluation

The evaluation of such a complex campaign is not a simple matter. The crucial criterion for success is the number of CFLs bought as a result of the campaign. But, we could only hope to get data about the total number of CFLs sold from manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. We are currently collecting this information. More detailed data about the success of the campaign is provided by a recently completed household survey. This survey, however, only took place in Kiel and was finished before the campaign was over. Other relevant information is, whether the campaign grabbed public attention, whether it was accepted or not, whether the dissemination of information was successful and whether PR, an important element of the strategy, was successful.

7.1. Telephone calls and mail

Throughout the course of the campaign we received over 100 telephone calls on our hot-line (the number had been printed on the leaflet). The overwhelming number of phone calls was extremely positive. For the most part, further information about CFLs was requested (appearence, availability etc.). In response to the requested information we developed, during the first phase, an information sheet, which was later sent to concerned consumers. Further evidence for the acceptance of our campaign is the large number of positive written responses that we received.

7.2. Citizens´ Activities

One goal of our campaign was, not only to motivate consumers to buy CFLs, but also to motivate them to participate actively in the dissemination of the idea "energy conservation through efficient lighting". The above mentioned supporting activities undertaken by concerned citizens show that this goal, to a remarkable extent, had been archieved.

7.3. Public Relations (PR)

A large majority of PR was carried out via print media, which was supplemented by not only radio interviews and broadcasts, but also a six-minute segment on local TV. More than 50 local reports about the campaign "Negawatt for Megawatt", many accompanied by photos, appeared in the newspaper. These reports appeared in both phases of PR, that means not only our message but also the regional- and municipal-related feedback were treated. The diversity of print media included the daily paper, which was probably most effective, community newsletters, club newspapers, enterprise newsletters and at least one school newspaper. The press reports were all positive, but had, however, different effects as measured by the number of the subsequent replies. The effect was also dependent upon whether the press mentioned our address and request for feedback. There appeared to be other factors, such as the type of headline and the degree of participation in the area. The fact that participation in our campaign varied throughout the different districts and cities, is basically due to timing, number and type of reports.

7.4. Feedback

Feedback regarding the purchase of CFLs requires a strong commitment: A copy of the receipt must be made and sent to us, therefore increasing costs for the consumer. The feedback regarding the purchased CFLs, which was sent to us, is not a reliable indicator for the real number of CFLs bought.

However, we have an idea of the relative temporal and spatial participation. The feedback on the purchased CFLs served as a monitoring system throughout the course of the campaign and was a central instrument used to maintain and increase the interest in the campaign throuh continous press announcements. In this manner, we could keep the public notified during all phases of the campaign.

Up until end of April we received a total of 2922 responses about the purchase of CFLs. Fifty percent of the responses came from Kiel and the other fifty percent came from larger cities and all 11 districts of Schleswig-Holstein. Altogether, citizens of 219 towns paticipated. This shows the extent of the campaigns spatial diffusion.

As to the speed of diffusion in relation to the amount of feedback sent, there is a substantial difference between Kiel and Schleswig-Holstein as a whole. Shortly after beginning the campaign we had, in Kiel, an explosive diffusion, which lasted until Christmas 1990. In the other parts of the state, we had a gradual diffusion, which turned into a sharp increase only in the second half of March. Primarily, this increase was due to intensive press activity.

However, as seen by the number of responses (copies of the receipts), the different levels of participation among the neighborhoods in Kiel and communities in Schleswig-Holstein cannot be traced back to the press. It can be shown that, where engaged citizens helped to disseminate our idea through direct distribution of leaflets, the number of replies increased. That means, that we have a combined press / citizens´effect.

7.5. Kiel household survey data

In mid March 1991 we carried out a household survey in Kiel (N = 781 households), dealing with life styles, values, consumer behavior and environmental and energy saving behavior. On the basis of the survey data we can make some assertations concerning the effects and outcomes of the "Negawatt for Megawatt" campaign. However, this data is limited to Kiel. It needs to be mentioned that, at the time of the survey, the campaign was still in progress.

7.5.1. Purchase of CFLs during the campaign

At the time of the survey 28.4% of Kiel households had at least one CFL. 19.7% had had one before the campaign had started. During the campaign 8.7% of all Kiel households installed CFLs for the first time. Further, 6.8% of the households which had already had CFLs purchased additional ones during the campaign. Altogether, 10.6% of all Kiel households purchased CFLs during the campaign. The mean purchase rate was 2.2 CFLs. Based on 100,000 households we estimate a total of 23,300 CFLs, which were bought in Kiel during the campaign.

7.5.2. Estimation of the number of CFL purchases as a result of the campaign - Kiel

We are not able to make an exact statement of how many of the 23,300 CFLs were bought because of the campaign. Instead, based on the survey data we are able to make the following three estimatations:

  • 48.7% of all Kiel households stated that they had heard of the "Negawatt for Megawatt" campaign, whereas 65% of the households, which had bought CFLs during the campaign, were able to make this statement. The awareness level of the campaign for this group is much higher. Of the households which had ever heard of the campaign, 14.4% bought CFLs during the campaign and 9.9% also stated, that they had been motivated to buy CFLs by the campaign. Under the assumption that all purchasers who knew of the campaign (that is 6.9% of the Kiel households) where motivated to buy the CFLs, we can estimate that a total amount of 15,000 CFLs were purchased as a more or less direct result of our campaign.
  • 30.1% of those who had bought CFLs during the campaign cited the campaign specifically as their reason for buying CFLs. That is 2.3% of all Kiel households. Using the average of 2.2. CFLs per household it can be estimated that over 7000 CFLs where bought.
    A further 34% cited newspaper articles as their reason. During the campaign, Kiel's only newspaper reported repeatedly and saliently about "Negawatt for Megawatt". Due to this fact we think it is reasonable to include those people who meet three specific criteria: Having heard of the campaign, having cited newspaper articles as a purchase reason and having a newspaper subscription. This results in 4.7% of all Kiel housholds or an estimated 10,400 CFLs bought as a result of the campaign. The number of the campaign-motivated purchases lies between 7,000 and 15,000 CFLs. Due to the fact that the survey took place before the campaign ended, it is realistic to say, that at least 10,000 CFLs were bought in Kiel alone.

7.5.3. Estimation of the number of CFL purchases as a result of the campaign - statewide

This estimation is even more uncertain. In that only 50% of our replies came from the remaining areas of Schleswig-Holstein, we suggest, that an estimate of at least another 10,000 CFLs bought as a result of the campaign is justifiable, espacially since in some of the newspaper reports which appeared outside Kiel our request for feedback was not published. So, the goal of the campaign - 20,000 CFLs statewide - seems at least to have been achieved.

7.5.4. Effects outside Schleswig-Holstein

The campaign "Negawatt for Megawatt" had to a considerable extent motivated people outside Schleswig-Holstein to buy CFLs.
We have evidence of this from the replies we received and from a nationwide report about the campaign, which appeared in the news magazine "Der Spiegel".

7.5.5. Campaign costs

  • 20,000 CFLs
  • approx. DM 11,000 printing costs
  • approx. DM 2,000 fax, telephone and mailing costs.

This is approximately 1.33 Pfennig per annual saved kwh - based on 49 kwh electricity savings per CFL and year - that is the savings of a 11-W-CFL, used in place of a 60-W normal bulb, burning 1,000 hours annually. With 20,000 CFLs it is an annual electricity savings of 980,000 kwh, to which the above stated costs are taken into consideration.

8. Concluding Remarks

In Europe, especially in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, numerous campaigns for CFL's have been conducted in the last years. Most of the campaigns had two things in common: they were conducted by energy utilities in a close cooperation with manufacturers and/or wholesalers and retailers and they predominantly worked with financial incentives such as rebates, etc. In contrast, our action was a consumer initiative that relied an environment protection motives rather than financial aspects. We hope to have demonstrated that a low cost / high effort campaign with such an approach can actually have success. A precondition to this is the conscious strategical application of the methods of social marketing and of the well-established rules of the social diffusion of innovations. We assume that our campaign could be useful as a model for actions to come that are targeted at the improvement of energy saving behavior among the population. Main emphasis in designing such campaigns should be placed upon: the credibility of the institution that is initiating such a campaign; linking of energy saving measures with environment protection objectives; using existing social networks; realizing central programs on the level of communities and neighbourhoods; establishing a feedback system that accompanies the process; fostering consumer commitment and initiatives; supporting inter-consumer communication concerning the campaign. The consumer should turn from being the target of the campaign to being an active partner.

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