All the recent discussions among professionals on providing “energy information” to consumers are interesting and give a perspective of how industry individuals see the issues. Whether too much information or just enough information will cause behavior changes in how we use electricity is not so much a concern when stack against the idea of NO information. Some within industry have hit it on the nose though. And that is — can we sustain the behavior change over a long period of time? Can we ingrain the change into the consumer mindset? While studies do show changes based on feedback, none seem to really know why– what triggers those changes (other than — “cause the answers given said so”). Quite frankly, there is a huge absence of scientific approach to data gathering and what I am seeing is that the current approach of “surveying” (sampling) skews the resulting data based on the type questions asked or how the questions are positioned within context.
Yet we are all basing our future growth and business strategies on these. The other thing that these surveys/blogs/press releases imply is an increase in consumer expectations of amount of savings incurred using a smart grid systems approach. A 10%, 20%, 30% or even 50% savings is a matter of perspective — depends on “how” one is determining the percentage and what factors are influencing that percentage. Yet we all push higher and higher savings without any real concrete evidence — maybe we are guilty of doing the same thing wall street did in sub-prime — that of using creative methods to make our points credible and palatable to consumers and each others.
In a broader sense, more “info” is more of an industry push than consumer need. Gathering data to the “inth” degree is an obsession executives seek to minimize risk and ensure enterprise success in revenue generation. So the real reason for “inth” data mining and data gathering is two fold: minimize risk and maximize a profit — which doesn’t sound like a consumer benefit to me. Now if that concept can be wrapped within a consumer need to “save” then supposedly all benefit from it. None of us are in the social rehab program for re-educating consumers against energy waste. But if we talk it long enough, promote it long enough, legislate it enough, then consumers will stop wasting energy and all of us benefit economically (or is that really what drives the debate of information overload?) I like the way the ZigBee Alliance grabbed market shares in setting a standard — they basically talked, promoted, and legislated their way into prominence. Since they set the stage on “how” to do things, it is only befitting that we all follow suite in ensuring consumers are educated and informed, whether they want it or not, so as to ensure we sell tons of products, ensure our jobs by proving our viewpoints right, and advancing the smart grid agenda — which is a great thing for all (or at least that’s what I have heard). Oh, I forgot to include the buzz words: climate change, global warming, energy savings, CO2 footprint (hope I didn’t miss any there!) in my sentence (have to legitimize my own comments).
Don’t get me wrong –I’m all for the smart grid and providing information to consumers. But at the same time, I wonder the real motive for smart grid. While I can easily ascertain the utilities’ approach to smart grid implementation, the industry as a whole has raced into the future with no discernable plan of action other than “there’s gold in them hills” mindset. President Obama’s stimulus bill only exasperates the gold rush. By last count, we have the “cable guy” spewing how to save on energy, how to be climate change conscience, and not forget one’s personal carbon footprint. And one can get all this at a huge discount for this month only. What a deal!