No, energy is not too cheap!

Dumb Thermostat UI

Is energy too cheap to motivate consumers to change their habits and use less?

In the Smart Grid Technology conference I attended in London last week a number of discussion points came up over and over again. I wrote already about how utility companies are wondering how to engage their customers around smart grid projects. Another topic which raised its head frequently was the question of how to motivate customers to change when energy is so cheap!

The obvious answer is to raise the price of energy, and this will happen over time, but it is the wrong answer – in the short-term at any rate.

The issue is not that energy is too cheap, rather it is that people have lots of demands on their attention. To make it worth people’s time to become involved in energy saving activities, if the return is not very high (because energy is cheap) then the process of reducing energy consumption needs to be made simple!

Look at the thermostat above. This is the thermostat to control the central heating/air conditioning in my home. I like to think I am reasonably technical. I have been a Windows sysadmin for a multi-national company, managing Windows, Exchange, Active Directory, ISA and SQL Servers. I edit php files regularly, I remotely manage my own CentOS server via SSH and I’ve even done quite a bit of regex scripting of .htaccess files!

But this thermostat is beyond me! …

One thought on “No, energy is not too cheap!”

  1. Dear Mr. Raftery,

    A Different Perspective
    I prefer that smart grid “control’ of our lives stop before it enters the home. Let it make the power grid smarter and more reliable. But, why does it have to adversely affect the quality of life that we enjoy now? Do we really have to be “forced” to consider an optimal time to wash and dry our clothes? Or when to take a shower? Or when to enjoy our electronics? Who really wants to live that way? We should be trying to find efficient ways to increase our energy supply and enjoy its benefits. Why are we so willing to accept “big brother” fine tuning our lives if it really is not necessary? Energy is fairly plentiful. Let us all continue to enjoy using it.

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