SAN ANTONIO, Texas—The Smart Energy Panel at the Freescale Technology Forum held here last week addressed the issue of smarter energy efficiency by asking its panelists to expound on the question: What is the biggest hurdle to action?
Freescale's own senior vice president, Henri Richard, started out the discussion by suggesting that energy efficiency could, in some cases, be as simple as working smarter by giving people the opportunity to pitch in with very little effort on their part.
"For instance, if your company has four printers scattered around the office, smarter software could tell you which of those printers is already warmed up, making it cheaper to print even if you have to walk another few feet to pick up your printout."
Some panelists, however, argued that we need to poke-and-prod consumers into action, giving them concrete incentives to change their energy-wasteful behaviors.
"People won't change their behavior for the long-term just to save the environment," said Brewster McCracken, executive director of The Pecan Street Project (Austin, Texas). "Accordingly, we have to find a way to convince them with savings or other financial incentives--we have to show them how to be more efficient in order to lower their bills."
The other panel members disagreed, saying that incentives may convince people to start-out being more energy efficient, but just citing statistics about how much they will save can sometimes backfire--such as telling people a shower costs them 10 cents instead of 25 cents if they don't run the water the whole time. The extra 15 cents cost will sound worth it to many people, compared to the inconvenience of lathering up while the shower is off, they said.
Christian Okonsky, founder and CEO of KLD Energy Technologies, agreed, saying that the devices we manufacture have to be energy efficient in-and-of-themselves, not by virtue of some extra effort made by the people using them.
"We need to create energy-saving devices that work out-of-the-box," said Okonsky. "Incentives and mandates are not going to do it alone—our devices have to create a positive emotional reaction to convince consumers to use them."
Duke Energy director of advanced consumer technology Mike Rowand agreed, saying that we have to show people that their lives will be better if they are more energy efficient, not that they will save money or the planet.
Smart Energy experts consisted of (from left): moderator Freescale's own senior vice president, Henri Richard, professor Brewster McCracken, executive director of The Pecan Street Project, founder of KLD Energy Technologies, Christian Okonsky, Duke Energy director of advanced consumer technology Mike Rowand, and Jun Shimada, president and CEO of ThinkEco Inc.
"We can encourage energy efficiency, but people care more about comfort than cost," said Rowand. "One consumer described it best to me when he said, 'Energy works for me, I don't work for energy.' The purpose of energy efficiency has got to be making our lives better—just knowing how much things cost does not encourage people to conserve."
Jun Shimada, president and CEO of ThinkEco Inc., added the "cool factor" dimension, saying that cost savings and comfort play second fiddle to the allure that people feel for their gadgets. After all, he said, people everywhere are walking around staring at their smartphones, which is neither energy efficient or particularly comfortable.
"The U.S is behind Japan and Europe, because here we want comfort and convenience, and things are not expensive enough for possible savings to encourage efficiency," said Shimadad. "At ThinkEco we believe that controlling energy consumption using a Blackberry or iPad or similar 'cool factor' device will encourage people to be more efficient, because we are making it fun for them to do so."
To promote energy saving is a big topic lately. The forum has some interesting discussions. One of the statements is correct - 'Energy works for me, I don't work for energy.' I think we are consuming the natural resource to promote economic growth. There is nothing wrong to use energy. Yet, there is everything wrong to waste energy. Wasting or using are somewhat personal perspective. Technology may be helpful to promote energy saving. The bottomline is how we change our habit to save more. Habits can include turn down the heat in the winter, regulated the air conditioner int he summer, driving an hybrid, etc. There are so much we can do before technology helps us. We just need to be a bit more sensitive to energy use.
You are correct, except that in the U.S., at least, people are fickle--tending only to care so long as their are shortages. As soon as energy becomes plentiful, for instance when gas prices are low, they start going "whole hog" again forgetting to conserve. However, if the cool-factor can be engaged, then even the biggest hogs may remain conservative in order have fun--which never goes out of style ;)
R_Colin has it right. Except that people don't forget to conserve, they just presume that if prices are low enough they don't need to conserve. And I haven't seen much in the way of different behavior anywhere else in the world that I've been either. Todays's children are being taught conservation much more than we were and, hopefully, that will eventually lead to better results.
While such forums are encouraging people to save energy on a personal scale, there has been a blatant misuse of available energy in some case just to get commercial advantage. Take for example the day-night cricket matches played in a country like India and that also in summer where there is a bright daylight available almost for 13 hours. The sport which is actually a dya activity has now been converted to only night activity to add glamor to it. Millions of units of electrical energy is being wasted here while on the other hand we are trying to grab that precious solar energy to convert into electricity using those expensive PV panels. Who is going to control this wastage?
The world is not serious over energy conservation. The fact remains that the people that live in mansions are those preaching this message. I was told that Senator Al Gore consumes 13% of his local utility energy in his house. It is not just talking, we need to act. I tend to believe people are talking to others without doing.
Behavior modification requires coercion. I prefer to leave that to politicians and lawyers. As an engineer, I prefer innovation - products that produce the same or better user satisfaction with greater efficiency.
You are right! It is every engineers job today to include as much energy efficiency as possible into their designs. That said, I believe that if you check out ThinkEco's "cool factor" solutions, you will see that they are not just window dressing, but in fact do contain significant technological innovations as well.
So what happens when everyone is conserving energy? Here in Connecticut with some of the highest electrical rates in the country the utilities raise their rates because they aren't making enough of a profit. I have no incentive to conserve other than it's the right thing to do. The Smart Grid will just be an expensive boondoggle that enriches a few companies at the expense of the ratepayers. Our nifty new digital meters have turned into a fiasco as Northeast Utilities continues to stonewall the regulators over major issues with the meters - as in significantly wrong readings if one can believe what people with the problem have been saying. Do we really need to add all the appliances talking across the Internet? Next the "regulators" will be raising the temperature in my freezer!
I feel your pain. Here in the Northwest investors who put millions into wind turbines are getting paid zero from the utilities right now, because all the rain has created an excess of hydroelectric power. This is a massive dis-incentive similar to your problem with raised rates. However, this just makes a case for my story's thesis--that traditional incentives just don't work in the long-term, because the changing landscape of current events can short-circuit any particular incentive. On the other hand, people love their mobile devices more than their children now days (: I say, tongue in cheek :) so if companies like ThinkEco can make energy conservation as fun as "Call of Duty" on a smartphone, then people will likely "play" at it just for the "cool factor."
Engineers shouldn't assume that the problem is insurmountable. Why should we give up prosperity and convenience? This isn't our heritage. We believe in solving problems. Energy isn't a bad thing. Energy efficiency is a good thing. We can figure out how to have as much energy as we need and still balance our ecosystem. We should not turn our innovative spirit and dreams over to politicians, we can solve our own problems.
Energy efficiency will be instituted and driven by the utility companys employing punitive motivation. The changes to home and corporate energy management and the amount of data exchanged between utilities and the consumer will, necessarily, be very disruptive when compared to current methods. The utilities will drive these changes for their own reasons, chiefly load-balancing and efficient use of capital resources, and the real-time usage information will be quite valuable to 3rd parties willing to purchase that data. No doubt, the 'cool factor' will be marketed to the nth degree in order to coerce and accelerate the buy-in to what will amount to a large degree of loss of control by the utility consumer.
By the way, the EE Times Newsletter editor, Dylan McGrath, needs to review current events regarding AWG and CO2 -- it would seem to be news to him that there actually is no AWG crisis or global thermal problem that can be addressed by employing these energy efficient systems.
Cool? Who cares? Save the Moolah? Now we're talking, but comfort always wins. I keep the A.C. in the house set to 78. Not quite as cool as I would like, but it is the upper level of comfort. Raise it to 82, and I won't be very happy and the incremental cost to lower it to 78 is easily worth the few extra dollars. Here in the mid-Atlantic, most of the cooling dollars are spent on lowering the dew point anyways. A few extra degrees either way doesn't make much difference.
I agree about the A/C. Smart meters and Google Power and all that stuff that lets us know how much electricity we're using and where it's going are wonderful things, but right now is the hottest time of the year in Arizona, and no matter how painful the electric bill is, I want to walk into a 78 degree house. Having an app or whatever tell me that I could save X percent by raising the household temp a few degrees is not going to motivate me to be uncomfortable.
I have actually encountered hostility from people who are not using energy efficiently. I drive a Honda Insight most of the time and I have a sizable solar array in my yard, but I make it a point to not preach about it. Even so, I get people in SUVs passing me very aggressively and dirty looks from neighbors. My theory is that they feel guilty and compensate by asserting their right to waste energy. This type of peer pressure is also, I believe, a factor. Either that or I really am a jerk...
Par for the course... Any technology that saves money, energy, time, maintenance-repair costs, etc is accepted and respected. Solar wins on all these. Initial costs and competing tehnology adjustments may need to be made. Those hard to sell to have more than one solar powered calculator at home. Curiosity is alive and well! JamesRetta
I'm surprised no one has suggested taxing energy. That's what we do in the UK and (although there are howls of protest from the hard-of-understanding) it works. My car seats 7 yet does more than 50mpg; I've just ordered one that seats 7 and will do more than 65mpg. Ford and VW's motivation to design/invent these engines is surely financial. At UK petrol (gas) prices (currently about £1.40 per litre), my new VW will cost less than 10p (16cents?) per mile in fuel.
We shouldn't need a panel of experts to tell us how to be more energy and resource efficient. The answer is that it takes a concerted effort. That is, it requires a combination of education, behavior modification -- with recognition and rewards (including monetary) -- and investment in tools and infrastructure components that help us be that much better.
I would like to make a point that hasn't yet been made. While I agree that devices and processes should be efficient intrinsically, there is also the standard economic "quality of life" factor. Minimizing resource expenditure is important, and not just money but also time. A quick example: I know people who, in the interest of "saving the planet," will go to great lengths to use public transportation to get to work to avoid driving. Even if it means their commute will be two hours as opposed to 30 mins. This is of course not resource efficient in any way, and I would argue has a greater impact on the environment.
The point is that when "green" technologies surpass that barrier, where it is more economical to use than the previous non -efficient methods, that is when people will adopt efficient strategies. This will come naturally with engineering and innovation.
Kudos to those who are becoming self sufficient and doing more with less. I remember back in the late 70's / early 80's when solar power had started to become more appealing to home owners due to the prior energy crisis in early - mid 70's. But, quickly lost it's popularity due to the lack of efficiency that we have in the solar panels of today.
So, why not take advantage of those advancements? And, let's not forget other alternative energy sources such as natural gas and hydrogen and common sense such as; using those nice little devices called switches when leaving the room or picking up the remote and extinguishing the TV at 9PM in favor of reading a book or family time.
What if we were to have an evening called "Lights Out America". Just imagine the energy saved. Even if only 33% participated the savings would be huge.
I remember the last time we lost power during a lightning storm. We lit an oil lamp and a couple of candles. It was quiet, peaceful evening with the only other light being the lightning.
I'm glad we don't have to read by candlelight.
I don't use fluorescent lights to read with as their too dim.
I'm glad I don't travel by wagon.
I love my V8 engine even at 4 $/gal. My V8 Vette is more efficient than my SUV and I can't afford to replace that yet. I will not spend $40,000 on a chevy even if it were a Vette. I assume that some day I'll be forced to buy an overpriced hybrid vehicle or an underpowered one that sips gas.
I don't cool my house with AC.
Photovoltaics probably won't work well under snow and I'm not about to shovel my roof.
I hate ceiling fans as I don't like moving shadows especially in my peripheral vision. (I do own a cieling fan but its under protest with my better half). I can envision that a windmill might be annoying if its in the wrong place.
I have no problems turning off the lights, the tv, and the computer when I'm not home. Unplugging stuff is a PITA though and products should turn off when you turn them off.
IS easy to retrofit any appliance which has a standby mode
It is possible to automatically reduce vampire power to 0.1W per appliance, or group of appliances. And also let the user know how much power they are saving! The key design feature for a good auto-standby socket is to use a set-reset latching relay for switching from super standby to ON mode........That way you don't waste power in ON mode.
Google for the EcoSaverSocket to find a google gadget for calculating annual savings!
Unfortunately the UK market for these devices is controlled by the Energy Providers [free issue] and they are content to give away poorly designed infra-red controlled switches with no user feedback.
John Leech Lowestoft
"Cool factor" isn't enough. It's enough to get early adopters in on it, but far from enough to get it to mainstream.
For mainstream, broad acceptance, energy efficiency needs to save money without adding in to much of a behavior change or make something easier. The shower example doesn't work because the added behavior change out weighs the savings. Putting flow restrictors has wide-spread adoption because it's a one-time task, doesn't require any behavior change and most devices come that way now anyway. It doesn't require much action or any continual thought.
In many cases, the perceived value will never be enough so legislation is required. That's how we got low flush volume toilets, extra insulated water heaters and gas mileage improvements.
If not legislated, it has to smack people hard in the wallet to cause this type of change.
Consumers will change their "wasteful" behaviours when companies provide the quality products , conveniently and at a reasonable cost. This also includes companies educating the consumer on what is available.