Capturing Cultural Diversity in California Residential Energy Efficiency Potential: An Energy Ethnography of Hispanic Households

Analyzing the social, cultural, and behavioral factors influencing energy efficiency adotpion among Hispanic households

Inova Energy Group, LLC


San Francisco, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

This project was completed in 2018. Key findings show that participants' energy-related behaviors were heavily influenced by family and community. For example, extended family members living under the same roof lead to variances in energy behaviors. Subtler implications include the use of energy to prioritize comfort for elderly family members. The study also found that participants did not tend to focus on the technical capabilities of energy-efficiency equipment or home envelope improvements, instead the focus was on behavior. For example, participants reported manually turning on and off their air conditioners rather than relying on the thermostat. The results of this project have been shared with IOU energy efficiency program managers and community based organizations to help increase Hispanic participation in energy efficiency programs.

The Issue

An increasing proportion of California's population identifies as being Hispanic, but Hispanics have historically had low participation in energy efficiency programs. Due to cultural background, frequent linguistic isolation, and higher densities of rental, low-income, and multifamily households, Hispanics are considered hard-to-reach customers in California's energy efficiency landscape and are found to have disproportionately low participation in energy efficiency programs. As such, there is a significant energy efficiency potential that has not been realized from this hard-to-reach group.

Project Innovation

This project focused on reaching Hispanic subpopulations in California to better understand the social, cultural, and behavioral aspects of their decisions to adopt energy efficient technologies and behaviors. The study combined data collected from participants via energy usage journals, in-home interviews, and energy meters to further the knowledge of Hispanic cultural associations and beliefs related to energy use decisions and choices. The information gathered in this study can be used to improve the metrics and assumptions underlying energy demand forecasting and energy efficiency potential and goals studies. In addition, the study provided information that can be used for targeted marketing of energy efficiency programs to the Hispanic population and improved levels of service to these households.

Project Benefits

Senate Bill 350 (De Leon, 2015) sets energy efficiency targets for 2030 and allows for the targets to be achieved, in part, from utility programs that provide financial incentives and rebates to their customers to increase energy efficiency. This project will help increase customer participation in utility efficiency programs by better understanding the social, cultural and behavior aspects of the Hispanic subpopulation that discourage or prevent their participation.

Consumer Appeal

Consumer Appeal

Energy efficiency programs that incorporate social, behavioral and cultural aspects into the program design are likely to have greater appeal to potential customers.

Greater Reliability


New metrics on the impacts of utility energy efficiency programs for various subpopulations can increase the accuracy of energy demand forecasts used in Long Term Procurement Planning.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Sheila Kennedy

Project Manager



Ghoulem Research


Sustainable Design + Behavior


Contact the Team