Are you looking for ways to lower your electricity bill? It really boils down managing your rate and consumption. If you live in an area with customer choice, you can shop for a lower electricity rate. Unfortunately, electric deregulation is not available everywhere. However, we all have the opportunity to reduce energy costs by conserving electricity in our homes.
Government, utility, and home improvement websites are full of great advice on how to reduce electricity usage in your home. While advice on energy conservation is plentiful and easy to find, we recently conducted a national scholarship essay contest to gather fresh ideas and perspectives. Current and incoming college students discussed how they would encourage energy conservation without consumers viewing it as sacrificing comfort.
We received a number of thoughtful and creative responses from the entrants. The ideas and suggestions generally fell into the categories of technology, consumer education, and consumer behavior.
Energy conservation and technology go hand-in-hand. Energy efficient lighting is a great example of how this works. Consumers get the same quantity and quality of light while using a fraction of the energy. The student essays pointed out a number of similar technological advances.
Some of the more innovative suggestions involved how consumers access and monitor their energy usage. These recommendations are similar to the home energy monitoring technologies currently available in the market. While these systems are often integrated with smart phone apps, consumer enthusiasm has been lukewarm. One student suggested that home energy monitoring systems integrate with activity trackers like Fitbit. This would allow consumers to track their personal and home energy consumption simultaneously.
Some essays discussed ideas for increasing consumer awareness in the area of energy conservation. Advertising and creative public service announcements are possible avenues for educating consumers on the benefits of reducing energy consumption. Most consumers are generally aware of practical energy conservation measures. However, transforming awareness into action is lacking.
The students suggested a variety of messaging approaches. Some highlighted the financial and societal benefits of energy conservation. Others suggested a more negative tone intended to shock the audience with the environmental and economic impact of wasting energy. Negative imagery, however, is not the norm in the retail electricity market. Consequently, it was interesting to see that younger consumers may respond to unconventional approaches to energy education.
Technology and education are meaningless without changes in behavior. The student essays recommended a number of creative ways to influence consumer behavior. Financial incentives were a common theme. One approach involved a rate discount for consumers using less electricity than those in similar-sized homes. Several essays also suggested surcharges for non-renewable energy and additional incentives for rooftop solar panels.
Some of the best ideas were the most practical. Essay contest winner Priya Manjaly (Boston University) suggested several commonly overlooked ways to conserve energy without sacrificing comfort. She identified routine air conditioner filter replacement as a means of maximizing operating efficiency. She also recommended setting back the water heater temperature. This saves energy and water as less cold water is required for mixing to reach the desired temperature. Lighter colored roof coverings and energy efficient appliances were also discussed in her essay as ways of conserving energy without sacrificing comfort.
In conclusion, consumers tend to be creatures of habit. Meaningful energy conservation will come about through the successful integration of education, technology and behavior. Ms. Manjaly summarized in her essay, “As human beings who share the earth, it is our responsibility to start a conversation with our friends, family, and neighbors about the little things that every one of us can do to conserve energy.” We could not have said it better.