Energy: Visualizing energy consumption does not lead to acts

Monitoring of consumption seems to be the Holy Grail of energy efficiency. The number of suppliers in this field is impressive.

Undoubtedly, this concern is omnipresent:

  • Hundreds of articles and numerous conferences debating each month of the pressing need that every citizen can follow its consumption.
  • The available software offerings for this visualization differ painfully by a better reading ergonomics, a better access to information or by basic analysis capabilities.
  • Some regulations (eg in Switzerland) have even mandated the provision of a display interface of consumption by the distribution network operator.

However, considering the issue more closely, believing that the only monitoring of energy consumption encourages a citizen action, is the most destructive belief in energy efficiency.

  • The experiences and pilots conducted to date show that consumers overwhelmingly, and with minor differences between countries, are not interested in their energy consumption and are therefore not willing to spend time monitoring it.
  • This is probably due to the fact that an even larger majority does not understand how their own energy system works and what to do when facing a given event: overconsumption, drift, loss of performance.
  • I have seen, however, experiences achieving encouraging results: some particularly well designed, others because consumers feeling observed or proud to participate in a project can change their behaviour over a limited period of time, others because recruiting volunteer participants resulted in an overrepresentation of conscious consumers and energy saving pioneers.

The visualization of energy consumption, however, is a mandatory and necessary means for energy savings but it is far from enough

  • The consumer must be helped to understand its energy consumptions, those that are a source of comfort and service, those which are unnecessary and can be saved. Many education is necessary at this stage.
  • The consumer should have a special incentive to take action, to gradually engage in concrete actions to save energy. This incentive is not necessarily economic earnings. This step is crucial in any initiative having the ambition to engage consumers.
  • The citizen must be accompanied, coached according to a fairly rigorous process because a deep behavioural change is at stake: it can not be decreed and always take time.

The visualization of energy consumption is of value only when accompanied by an offer of services respecting the budgetary framework of the consumer and justified by the savings (or, later, by the avoided over-consumption!).

Such offers are developed for professionals and begin to appear from specialized service providers for households but I still see energy companies in difficulty to consider and define the necessary services offers. Yet they are such a proximity factor and customer loyalty!

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