A new study in Nature Energy reports dramatic improvements in referrals for a low-income solar home program after a simple $1 “thank you” is provided, with even greater gains when a postmarked referral slip was also included. California’s Disadvantaged Communities – Single Family Solar Homes program, which provides solar panels for low-income households, tested strategies to increase referrals.

The control group received a postcard reminder that there was a $200 referral reward, whereas others got the $1 as a “thank you” for participating in the program, and a third group got $1 as thanks and a referral slip. Those who received $1 were twice as likely to refer new customers, which doubled the number of solar contracts. And five times as many people who got the postmarked referral slip made referrals, as it allowed customers to skip calling the program or going online for the referral process.

Lead author Kim Wolske with the University of Chicago explained that “the intent of the dollar was to invoke a sense of reciprocity.” Liza Nobel, of Grid Alternatives, which administers the program, pointed out that these communities have been “burned” by energy companies before, and are “sometimes treated like an afterthought for companies’ expansion plans. They get technology, like solar, later on in the cycle. There’s a certain level of distrust in companies if they’re not centered in communities.” (E&E News $)