Anybody who\u2019s raised children knows that when they want to bake a cake\u2014after having watched it done for previous birthdays\u2014it\u2019s better to leave the instructions on the counter and get out of the kitchen rather than hover over them like the proverbial helicopter parent. Only enter the kitchen if you detect a burning odor later. If you stay in the kitchen too long, you run the strong risk of driving them away and having to bake the cake yourself. It might be summed up simply as treat them like adults and they\u2019ll act like adults. Treat them like children and they\u2019ll act helpless. \tThe same is true when it comes to getting people to engage in new behaviors to save energy and help the environment. For instance, when I worked at the smog control agency for Los Angeles from the late 1980s through 2001, the goal was to employ all available technologies and encourage, even to require, behavioral changes to clean up lung-burning air pollution. \tLess polluting technologies\u2014like cleaner cars, paints, and power plants\u2014have achieved the lion\u2019s share of the emissions reductions that have made Los Angeles a much cleaner city today. But at the same time, behavioral and social changes have provided needed icing on the cake. \tThe human side of what\u2019s essentially been an engineering-based program to cleaning up the air has involved educating people on the environmental value, for instance, of hybrid cars, and getting people to carpool and telecommute. \tIn the energy world, most of the effort to reduce the environmental impacts of producing power has centered around hardware solutions. But, the prospect that energy conservation behavior can help, and also lower the overall cost of providing reliable electricity, has remained a gleam in the eye. \tLooking at the so-called \u201cRosenfeld curve\u201d\u2014a graph named after former California Energy Commission member Art Rosenfeld, a champion of energy efficiency\u2014history shows that energy efficiency efforts in California have kept per capita electricity use roughly constant since the 1970s. At the same time, per capita usage rose 50 percent in the rest of the nation. \tHowever, looking at the way the curve is playing out in more recent years reveals that per capita household energy consumption has leveled off in the rest of the nation too. \tEarlier this summer, this column discussed how other states are employing price signals to encourage energy conservation\u2014when targeted for peak demand periods commonly called demand response\u2014and achieving success in reducing peak load and achieving cost savings for the consumer (Current, July 26, 2013). \tNow, researchers have pointed out why progress on conservation is stalling in California. \tCalifornia is falling behind the curve on achieving energy savings through household conservation due to timidity about sending price signals to residential utility customers, shows research presented at the California Air Resources Board Aug. 12. Consumer education and communication programs need improvement too, according to the research. \tHere\u2019s a summary of what three different research teams found about getting consumers to adopt energy conservation behavior in their households. \tFirst, according to University of California, Los Angeles, researcher Magali Delmas, the amount of money that consumers can save by trimming appliance use is small under existing rate structures. She conducted a study of married graduate students in 120 rented apartments in West Los Angeles. She and other researchers found that the renters\u2014who paid their own power bills to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power\u2014were more likely to save energy when told about the environmental health impacts of wasteful usage than when told about the price of power. Families with children receiving environmental messages about power use were the most likely to conserve. On the other hand, those alerted by e-mails and text messages about the price of power used just as much as the control group that received no conservation messages during the experiment. \tSecond, UCLA researcher Matthew Kahn found that when people were educated about the existing tiered rate structure commonly used by investor-owned utilities, residential customers reduced their consumption. Tier one users, who use the least amount of power, increased their usage a bit once they found out how cheap their power was, he noted. \u201cYou don\u2019t need to shield them,\u201d he concluded, \u201cfrom prices that reflect scarcity.\u201d He urged California to be bolder and send price signals and educate consumers about how to take advantage of variable pricing to save both energy and money. \tThird, regarding the commonly held notion that customers who use the least energy are the poorest, least educated, and need to be protected from pricing, University of California, Davis, researcher Reuben Deumling deconstructed that stereotype. He found that in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, for instance, more than 30 percent of the lowest energy users live in single family homes, many of the them larger than average, and that many of the lowest users were in the highest income bracket. Deumling found that many of the low energy users had taken steps to become more energy efficient. Based on his findings, he\u2019s advising the state and utilities to engage people more regarding how to save energy, including seeking their own ideas, rather than merely hovering over them like helicopter parents and prescribe steps. \tIt\u2019s clear that California energy regulators and utilities need to begin treating consumers more like adults, rather than as children who need to be protected and told what to do. The research shows that when provided with the right information, consumers will make good choices in their household energy usage that save them money, reduce overall system costs, and benefit the environment.