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Views: Basic Psychology Can Empower Energy Efficiency

The SSC Team October 15, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the blog archives:

Most people are not aware of how much energy they are using (or wasting). Many feel as though they have little control over their monthly utility bills. However, social scientists suggest that if people were made aware of 1. their power usage costs in real time; and 2. how those costs compare to their neighbors and others in similar situations, energy conservation would be enhanced because of people’s desire to outperform.

According to Scientific American, new technology may improve awareness of our energy use and help push peoples desire to conserve energy.

One example of such new technology was employed by Southern California Edison utility which gave its consumers an Ambient Orb - a ball that sits on one’s table and communicates wirelessly with the local power grid. During peak demand hours, the ball glows red. When electricity prices are lower, the ball grows green. After only a few weeks, residents using the Ambient Orb decreased their power consumption during peak periods by 40 percent.

Competition and the ability to compare energy usage with one another may encourage further saving. A study was conducted in a small California town where all residents were notified about their energy consumption in previous weeks as well as the average consumption in their neighborhoods. Included with each month’s utility bill, individual homes were given a smiley face for bellow average consumption and a frown for an above average bill. This simple expression prompted excessive users to cut back and encouraged savers to continue saving.

These examples seem to illustrate a fundamental misconception – that being more energy efficient will somehow make life more difficult or less comfortable. A more reasonable conclusion may be that comfort is relative. Meaning, some people may actually want to do their laundry late in the evening or early in the morning if they can save money.

The article articulates another simple point - knowledge is power. People should be informed about their energy use in more effective ways!

Have you seen other technology that uses positive reinforcement or active awareness to encourage more sustainable behavior? Let us know in the comments!

Dispatch from SSC summer 2009 Intern Paul Turaew

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