Saving water in schools: evidence on the use of smart water meters and behavioural insights (2017 - 2018)
Date: 2017 - 2018
Research team: This project is being conducted by researchers from a number of organisations, including RUBEN, the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), and Bridgiot. Researchers include: Martine Visser (RUBEN & EPRU), Johanna Brühl (EPRU), Kenneth Berger (Masters) and Thinus Booysen (Bridgiot/University of Stellenbosch).
Through a combination of smart water meter technologies and behaviour based interventions this study aims to address whether (1) feedback about past consumption or (2) social comparison in the form of an interschool competition reduce water consumption in schools in the Western Cape, South Africa. The project provides schools with improved infrastructure and information to manage water consumption and promote water conservation. Further, it provides municipalities with additional tools for encouraging sustainability and illustrates the potential for welfare gains from reducing consumption through the uptake of smart technology.
Climate information and adaptation to climate change (2017 - 2018)
Date: 2017 - 2018
Research team: This project is being conducted by researchers from a number of organisations, including RUBEN, the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), Environment and Climate Research Centre (Ethiopia), and the University of Dar es Salaam. Researchers include: Martine Visser (RUBEN & EPRU), Chalmers Mulwa (EPRU & RUBEN), Zachary Gitonga (EPRU); Mintewab Bezabih (Environment and Climate Research Centre) and Byela Tibesigwa (University of Dar es Salaam)
Using surveys and economic experiments, this study aims to address whether: (1) attitudes towards uncertainty lead to sub-optimal decisions among farmers in northern Namibia and Tanzania (2) lack of information on climate change is a significant barrier to climate change adaptation among farmers in each of these locations (3) there is a demand for weather information that reduces climate change-induced uncertainty in farming and (4) providing weather information leads to better farming choices including adaptation to climate change. The project aims to advise on better targeting of policy that leads to higher agricultural outcomes through adoption of best practices and adaptation to climate change.
Female microenterprise creation and business models for private sector distribution of low-cost renewable off-grid led lighting: multiple randomized trials, impact evaluation, and lab experiments in rural villages (2015 - 2018)
Date: 2015 - 2018
Research team: Martine Visser, Rowan Clarke (Masters) and Rebecca Klege (PhD)
Over 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to modern energy. In Africa, this is expected to rise given that grid expansion is not predicted to keep pace with population growth. In addition, almost six million children under five die each year from preventable diseases, the primary cause being respiratory infections, and smoke from traditional lighting sources ha been found to be a key risk factor in pilot studies. Furthermore, the United States and United Kingdom alone, via Power Africa's Beyond the Grid, have committed to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small-scale solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, and this is just a small fraction of the amounts being spent on solar energy. Yet the impacts of such programs have seldom been rigorously studied. Additionally, adoption remains low, and the question of how to increase use is still to be answered.
To address this issue, we partner with a large social enterprise that has distributed low-cost solar lighting to over 150 000 households and 750 000 people in rural Rwanda involving the creation of 1500 microenterprises in charge of distribution and recharge. We carry out a number of large-scale field and business experiments as well as lab-in-the-field experiments. These use new automated data collection technologies to combine big data with household surveys. They include:
The role of behavioural insights to facilitate conservation of water & building behavioural insights capacity in local government (2014 - 2019)
Date: 2014 - 2019
Research team: This project is being conducted by researchers from a number of organisations, including RUBEN, the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), and iCOMMS. Researchers include: Martine Visser (RUBEN & EPRU), Kerri Brick (EPRU), Samantha De Martino (EPRU), Jorge Garcia, Johanna Brühl (EPRU), Ulrike Rivett (iCOMMS) Megan McLaren (iCOMMS, Masters)
In the first stage of this project, a large scale randomised control trial (around 400,000 households) was conducted where behavioural nudges were sent to households with their monthly municipal bill over a period of 6 months to motivate water savings. A number of framings were used, for example a social norm message compared a household’s consumption to the average for their neighbourhood and a financial loss message quantified the loss from not reducing consumption.
While the first stage of the project was focused around the design and roll-out of the study, the second part is focused around knowledge and skills transfer and the integration of the learnings within the structures and staff at the City of Cape Town. Working papers from the first stage of the project
Eskom billing study (2014 - 2015)
Date: 2014 - 2015
Research team: Martine Visser, Grant Smith and Johanna Brühl
The study experimentally investigated the role of improved timing and salience of information imparted in providing customers with utility bills. We specifically studied the impact of redesigning the utility bills and testing how different treatments fare in improving general understanding of the bill. We further investigated the role of timely messaging in reminding people about their consumption to improve salience issues in dealing with electricity usage.
School of Economics Building
University of Cape Town