Especially in the U.S., people like to think that solving problems just requires finding the proper " silver bullet." Such fixes are not sustainable. Any utility company wanting sustainable long-term savings in personal energy demand requires a more thorough commitment that might be referred to as " head" (education), " heart" (motivation), and " hands" (action).
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- Energy (miscellaneous)
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The Silver Bullet Myth of Sustainable Energy Savings. / Pasqualetti, Martin; Martin, Pasqualetti; Boscamp, Robert L. et al.In: Electricity Journal, Vol. 23, No. 8, 10.2010, p. 72-78.
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TY - JOUR
T1 - The Silver Bullet Myth of Sustainable Energy Savings
AU - Pasqualetti, Martin
AU - Martin, Pasqualetti
AU - Boscamp, Robert L.
AU - Tabbert, Michael K.
N1 - Funding Information: Martin J. Pasqualetti Michael K. Tabbert Robert L. Boscamp Especially in the U.S., people like to think that solving problems just requires finding the proper “silver bullet.” Such fixes are not sustainable. Any utility company wanting sustainable long-term savings in personal energy demand requires a more thorough commitment that might be referred to as “head” (education), “heart” (motivation), and “hands” (action). Especially in the U.S., people like to think that solving problems just requires finding the proper “silver bullet.” We search for quick-fix diets and get-rich-quick investments. When it comes to solving our energy problems, we tend to take the same approach. We continue hoping that ethanol or nuclear power or solar power or fusion power will come through and provide us the energy we need, cheap and clean. Most of all we hope that we can have it all without too much fuss and without making too many changes in the way we live or what we have to pay. We have been particularly susceptible to the silver bullet myth in the residential sector. We search for a single way to cut our energy bills, use less energy, mine less fuel, and build fewer power plants. For utility companies, the most popular silver bullet over the past 25 years has been the “soft-energy path” of energy efficiency. There are good reasons for this optimism; such tactics tend to be fast, cheap, and effective. 1 1 Lambert M. Surhone, Miriam T. Timpledon and Susan F. Marseken, Eds., Soft Energy Technology: Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Energy Conservation, Passive House, Efficient Energy Use, Fossil Fuel, Soft Energy Path , Betascript Publishing, 2010; Lane Burt and Jim Presswood, Unlocking the Power of Energy Efficiency in Buildings , 2008, at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/unlocking.pdf , and Lena Hansen and Amory B. Lovins, Keeping the Lights On While Transforming Electric Utilities , 2010, Originally published in S olutions J ournal . As the advantages of such an approach have gained momentum and acceptance, governments at every level and utility companies in every state have tried everything they can think of to promote such tactics. There have been education programs, light bulb giveaways, tax rebates, “Energy Star” tags, subsidized home audits, “power meters,” pay-as-you-go plans, and even programs that rely on peer pressure. 2 2 Martin LaMonica, OPower Looks to Add Human Touch to Smart Grid , May 2, 2010, at http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20003852-54.html . Nineteen states have even passed Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS). 3 3 Campaign for an Energy Efficient America, at http://energyefficiencyworks.org/why-efficiency/faq . All these approaches have had some positive effect, but in the larger scheme of things, it has been only a fraction of what is possible. In 2008, customers enrolled in existing wholesale and retail demand reduction (DR) programs were capable of providing around 38,000 MW of potential peak load reductions in the U.S. GW of electric power from energy that is currently wasted by the U.S. industrial sector alone. 4 4 Peter Cappers, Charles Goldman, and David Kathan, Demand Response in US Electricity Markets: Empirical Evidence , E nergy , 35 (4): 1526–1535. However, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has estimated that the U.S. could produce 96 5 5 Owen Bailey and Ernst Worrell, Clean Energy Technologies A Preliminary Inventory of the Potential for Electricity Generation, LBNL-57451, April 2005, at http://www.recycled-energy.com/_documents/news/LBNL_clean_energy.pdf . The search for the “silver bullet” goes on. The question is: How can we, at least in the residential sector, bring the demand for energy down? How can we achieve a sort of nirvana of minimal demand, one where everyone uses just the amount of energy they actually need for the job at hand, and no more. Short of roving bands of “kilowatt police” roaming the streets looking for leaking doors and oversized air conditioners, what really is the proper approach? The answer, we think, lies less on the materials that are used to build the program and more on the foundation principles upon which the program is constructed. We believe that any utility company wanting sustainable long-term energy savings from its residential customers will need more than real-time metering, insulation, caulk, and guilt to drive sustainable energy savings within this customer segment. This is not to argue that such steps have no place in the total solution, they do. But more is involved than a single program or device. Like successful weight loss, it is not a little adjustment here and there. Who doesn’t have a friend or two who have “turned themselves in to Jenny Craig” and dropped 50 pounds, only to see the weight reappear over the ensuing months or years? Why? Because they didn’t achieve the lifestyle changes that are the cornerstone for most successful long-term weight loss success stories. The same is true of energy savings: we need residential customers to adopt behavioral lifestyle changes, not just by buying a programmable thermostat, but by programming it. Meaningful and sustainable DR will require a shift in how we conceptualize the task at hand. So how do we achieve a behavioral change that will result in the long-term gains we desire? We suggest adopting a “head/heart/hands” approach to focus on education, motivation, and action, followed by a continuous feedback mechanism ( ). This approach is not original with us. Indeed, it has been used since at least biblical times to achieve desired results. Everyone will remember the old adage about how best to feed a hungry man: Figure 1 Give him a fish and he will eat for a day; teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. The goal of any successful and sustainable program to reduce energy use is to teach the consumer how to fish. Head – the educational component Why is education such an important part of the overall plan for sustainable energy savings? Because without the requisite knowledge of why the action is important and what will be achieved, there is significant risk of one of the following unwanted customer outcomes: • Customers will either not get the message or will ignore it, • Customers will make a half-hearted, short-term, attempt to take action, • Customers will take the wrong action, even with good intentions, or • Customers will wait for the next “fish” (i.e., rebate) because they did not learn how to fish in the first place. If customer education is skipped or short-changed we might get some of the low-hanging energy savings but not the kind of behavioral lifestyle change that is needed. If we jump right into motivating residential customers, most of the improvements, such as a fad diet, will be temporary. We need not to just cut calories—or kilowatt-hours—but to ensure that the customer fully understands cause and effect. In weight loss it's not enough to just eat fewer calories if protein and carbohydrates decline while sugar and sodium intake rises. In the energy industry how much more valuable would it be if residential customers reduced their energy consumption on a hot summer afternoon during the middle of a heat wave, rather than to just beat some target consumption goal for the month? The most effective approach is to understand the totality of the problem, how actions and results are linked to one another. So that the novelty of energy saving actions does not wear off, leaving the customer to revert to past behavior, customer education needs to take place before the utility makes the leap to motivate customer action. There are two important parts in the customer education plan: (1) communication and education on the overall issue that the utilities face and why it's a problem worth solving, and (2) customer education that is based on a solid understanding of specific customer demographics, not just monthly bill comparisons. That the novelty of energy saving actions does not wear off, customer education needs to take place before the utility makes the leap to motivate customer action. Without an understanding of the energy use within the home it is difficult (at best) to educate the customer on where there are opportunities to save energy and estimate the impact. Leaving a customer to figure out ways to save energy might get us some initial reductions, but it will not provide the sustainable energy savings that come from coordinated demand response and energy efficiency programs designed and managed by the utilities. We need focused action by the residential customer. This level of commitment can only come if we have done an adequate job educating customers and then providing them with solid guidelines and motivators based upon accurate bill disaggregation data. Heart – the motivational component Customers have historically had a flip-the-switch relationship to their energy providers. They have had little thought or concern about anything other than whether the switch was working. The idea of customers being a partner in the supply-demand balance, and the deeper concept of customer choices being a lower-cost alternative to supply is still largely an untapped resource pool. Until the customer is better educated on the overall issues that the utilities face, their own particular energy use profile, and why the utility's problems are worth solving, they will lack the necessary information to make informed decisions. To motivate customers without these basic data is risky for any utility company that cares about customer satisfaction. In simple terms, the overall issue faced by utilities and which the residential customer can help solve comes down to supply and demand. All utilities have a finite limit on their generation capacity, yet they also have an obligation to serve the customer no matter the amount of power demanded. For the vast majority of hours in any given year, customer demand poses no problem to the utility supply side of the equation. What causes concern for the utility, no matter whether they are summer- or winter-peaking, is: • For the relatively few hours where the supply/demand curve gets stressed, usually due to an extended regional heat or cold wave, how can brownout and blackouts be avoided? This is where utilities employ DR programs. • As annual energy consumption continues to grow more rapidly than the utility can add generation capacity, what measures can be utilized to protect the dwindling generation capacity reserve margin? This is where utilities employ energy efficiency (EE) programs to get less energy consumed by the same buildings, appliances or processes. The job of the utility is to incentivize the right customer behavior, and this requires recognizing that what motivates one group of residential customers might have only limited success with others. The low- or fixed-income customer is going to be driven to action by different motivational factors than the mogul who is not as concerned about the size of his/her monthly utility bill. What is it that motivates the residential consumer of electricity to reduce usage? Whether or not you have been around for several cycles of demand-side management in the utility industry over the past few decades, we can probably all agree there are numerous factors that influence consumer behavior. And, that which motivates one residential customer may have little or no impact on another. One common approach to designing residential programs that should be continued is a determination of whether the motivation factors used in the program will have broad or narrow appeal, and if the potential energy savings impact will be large or small (as well as short- or long-term). Some of the motivational factors that have been used by utilities in the past to influence residential customer behavior are: • Money (utility rebates), • Keeping up with the neighbor's (peer pressure/competition), • Altruism (save the earth, etc.), and • Historical comparisons (weather-adjusted in some cases). The ideal of all motivational techniques is to encourage customer participation in order to get large and broad impact ( ). This is again where we are always looking for the silver bullet. Figure 2 What motivates each of us has been shaped by our value system, our aspirations, and our personal beliefs. Such motivations will also change over time as our stage/status in life changes and we reassess priorities. There are definitely common denominators (money, competition, environmental concerns) that motivate people, but their degree of influence changes from one individual to another. Each residential neighborhood is filled with customers in all kinds of life stages. Residential customers who make a full emotional commitment are much more likely to stick with the program (i.e., sustainable energy savings). That is why education and the right motivational factors are so important. To get emotional commitment from a customer requires that they understand the problem (the education phase) and accept that they can help for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be motivated solely by the appeal of personal values or they might be motivated by some financial reward. But once the emotional commitment is made, the path to action is much clearer and significantly more likely to bring meaningful and long-lasting results. If all we are interested in is skimming the surface, several approaches would accomplish the objective. However, any benefits would most likely be temporary. If, on the other hand, we want long-term motivated residential customers who are emotionally committed, then we need to get on with the hard work of understanding the customer more completely, including their individual energy profiles. Once the customer understands the problem, and how much potential comes from specific actions, he/she can then make the right decisions (for them and for the utility provider). Hands – the action component We want customers to do the right things (head) for the right reasons (heart); we do not want them to just be doing things willy-nilly for some temporary improvement. While many factors have a place in energy demand reduction, it is self-competition that has the longest staying power. Without the proper education and motivation, “actions” (hands) by the uninformed customer could lead to problems in terms of reduced customer satisfaction or unsustainable energy savings. Once we understand the customers and how their individual energy profile contributes to their energy bill, prioritized rank ordered actions can be presented to the residential customer. In this way customers can see the potential before embarking on action, and determine what actions are acceptable based upon effort level and reward. Customers can also better understand what action they might be willing to take in order to help the utility during the short-term critical DR events, versus the long-term EE initiatives. As reported in February 2006 by the U.S. Department of Energy to the U.S. Congress, ). 6 6 U.S. Dept. of Energy, Benefits of Demand Response in Electricity Markets and Recommendations for Achieving Them , Feb. 2006, at http://www.oe.energy.gov/DocumentsandMedia/congress_1252d.pdf . A Report to the United States Congress Pursuant to Section 1252 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. from the customer perspective investments in demand response and energy efficiency are both demand-side management (DSM) strategies that can be used to manage energy costs ( Figure 3 An important benefit of demand response is avoided need to build power plants to serve heightened demand that occurs in just a few hours per year. As pointed out in the same report to the U.S. Congress, traditional energy efficiency programs find customers investing in high-efficiency equipment and, once installed, continue to reduce energy usage over a multi-year economic lifetime, usually without much ongoing customer attention. On the other hand, customer decisions to enroll in demand response programs, ). and respond during events can be quite complex ( Figure 4 From the perspective of the electric system as a whole, the emphasis of demand response is on hours in a year when wholesale electricity market prices are at their highest or when reserve margins are low due to contingencies such as generator outages, downed transmission lines, or severe weather conditions. reductions in usage at critical times. Critical times are typically much less than 1 percent of the 8,760 Feedback – the “glue” that holds the concept together Like the dieter who usually needs feedback to stay on the path to weight loss, our residential energy consumer deserves communication and will perform best with continuous feedback. The form of feedback however will be as different as the types of EE and DR programs offered by the utilities. This does not diminish the need to plan for and deliver ongoing feedback to any residential customer no matter the stage of involvement – showing interest, signing up, and initial or ongoing participation in utility sponsored programs. Without a feedback mechanism to document progress, reiterate goals, and reward success, the residential energy consumer has the same potential for “falling off the diet” and not sticking with the behavioral lifestyle changes that we need. The dieter who gets reinforcement in the mirror, on the bathroom scale, and at official weigh-ins in some sponsored weight loss campaign, plus begins to get positive comments from friends and family, is far more likely to keep motivated (head and heart) and taking action (hands) as the going gets tougher and we are not just dealing with low-hanging fruit. The same can be true with the residential energy customer segment for those utilities that are interested in education and motivation for the purpose of getting energy savings that are greater and more sustainable. The goal of utility companies is to motivate a meaningful response in the customer base to avoid the great added expense required to cover this short-term demand spike. We think the best way to do that is to create a program around the head-heart-hands approach which will, along with the critical outer-shell of feedback, amount to the antithesis of a “silver bullet”. It is a “foundation” concept that will be most effective in framing the lasting energy demand reductions that all utility companies seek. Martin J. Pasqualetti , Ph.D., is professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. He has 35 years experience in the energy business at the university level. He has been advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Arizona State Energy Office, and various other federal, state, and environmental organizations. + Touche. He was formerly with DTE Energy and Portland General Electric. Michael K. Tabbert has over three decades in the energy industry, including as an energy consultant with EPRI, Elster, Indus, and Deloitte Robert L. Boscamp is Executive Vice President of Apogee International. He has over three decades as an entrepreneur serving the energy industry. He was President and CEO of A&E Enercom and EcoGroup—both of which concentrated on demand-side management of electricity demand—and President and CEO of the non-regulated side of Pinnacle West.
PY - 2010/10
Y1 - 2010/10
N2 - Especially in the U.S., people like to think that solving problems just requires finding the proper " silver bullet." Such fixes are not sustainable. Any utility company wanting sustainable long-term savings in personal energy demand requires a more thorough commitment that might be referred to as " head" (education), " heart" (motivation), and " hands" (action).
AB - Especially in the U.S., people like to think that solving problems just requires finding the proper " silver bullet." Such fixes are not sustainable. Any utility company wanting sustainable long-term savings in personal energy demand requires a more thorough commitment that might be referred to as " head" (education), " heart" (motivation), and " hands" (action).
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U2 - 10.1016/j.tej.2010.09.005
DO - 10.1016/j.tej.2010.09.005
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AN - SCOPUS:78049402199
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JO - Electricity Journal
JF - Electricity Journal
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