By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Residents of Tidy Street in Brighton, England received smart meters and a brilliant display of their energy usage, right on the very street they live on.
That's the approach in an experiment in Brighton, England, where residents of Tidy Street are recording their electricity consumption online, then displaying it in aggregate on the actual street they live on.
For the last month, residents have had the joy (or shame!) of seeing their daily average usage displayed out front, comparing the block to the average consumption of a Brighton household.
It's a neat trick: show the people how much electricity they're using, and watch them curtail usage on their own.
The display is hardly high-tech, too: in collaboration with a local graffiti artist, the infographic involves spraying chalk on the asphalt, and is temporary.
The whole project hinges on the use of smart meters by the participants, who can then track electricity consumption by specific devices in their home over time. The endeavor is part of CHANGE, a research collaboration between The Open University, Goldsmiths, Sussex University and Nottingham University.
It is pretty clear that the project is eye-catching and captivating far beyond the city limits of Brighton. The question: how do you keep residents' attention on energy consumption once the novelty wears off?
Apr 18, 2011
Our local power company went to a sliding rate scale based on usage. We pay a lower rate for the first X kw we use and then the per unit cost steps up incrementally as usage goes up. This is the opposite of what many power companies did in the 1980s and 1990s where big companies used to leave the lights on after hours to drive up usage into lower price ranges. The net impact was artificially high usage to get lower bills. On a related note, some local towns use a similar structure for water usage.
A clever - but very short sighted - use of social pressure.. To do the "right thing"?.. maybe. Maybe not. This type of tactic is a very slippery slope. Like most social engineering, very dangerous. In this example, there are two incentives. - save money - compete with your neighbors for being more "green". The cost of electricity is NOT going to go down because the community is using less.. It will remain the same. The primary cost of electricity isn't based on fuel source. It is based on delivery costs (infrastructure).. which didn't change. Less electricity being used?.. the cost per kilowatt just goes up to compensate. The total costs may be a tiny bit less. Creating competition between neighbors - a good thing?. This can go horribly wrong.. .on so many levels. Lets trade CO2 for violence.. ya.. that the ticket. There are much better ways to encourage people to act with concern for the environment.
Too low, some like their thermostats set as low as 65 is the problem. 78 is actually a good setting for when away from home. Even people who have reason to use more power than others can get below the "average" use, because so many waste so much. I've heard people talk about $400+ electric bills, and wonder why no one sends out someone to do some free tests to find out why. These people either have no insulation or wide open doors and windows combined with extreme settings on the thermostat or similar problems.
This just exposes once again that all "greens" really want is that everybody should think and behave just like them. Making an energy consumption number public like that does not take into consideration the size of homes, or the fact that some people work at home and thus the electricity they would use at work is used at home instead. It doesn't take into consideration other uses of energy, for example, someone who works at home probably uses less gasoline than somebody who doesn't. Unfortunately, this "one size fits all" thinking is all too common. I live in Boulder, CO which has the nation's first smart grid installed, and already some people here want to use it to make sure nobody sets their air conditioner too low ("too low" often being defined as anything below 78 degF). Some proposed pricing plans by our local utility (Xcel) would charge as high as 51 cents per KWH for A/C use during peak summer hours.
Given the low correlation between IQ and any form of success other than taking tests (well, duh, that's what they measure IQ by), why should SmartPlanet be staffed by the likes of Mensa, otherwise known as Underachievers Anonymous? Given the level of vituperation in running that organization, they might even think that calling something moronic actually amounts to an argument.
I have a better idea, let's have all current and future writers and editors at "smartplanet" display the courses they took and grades they received, then force them to take an I.Q. test and compare that to others in the field. Perhaps we can shame some of intellectually challenged ones into leaving. After all we don't morons writing for such a blog site do we? They might just end up writing such moronic articles.
"How do you keep residents? attention on energy consumption once the novelty wears off?" Easy ! - After the first year, include how much more (or less) each resident's energy usage is costing them, compared to that same day the previous year. (or an aggregate)