Power Down (7/22/11)
The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, President, The Regeneration Project
Chris King, Chief Regulatory Officer, eMeter
Gregory Walton, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University
Energy underpins our civilization. It’s hardly surprising that convincing people to use less of something so tied to their comfort and survival is challenging. Smart policy has given California a head start, but it’s not enough. We need to dig deeper to reap energy savings, say these three experts convened by Climate One. “I think there’s a downside in focusing too narrowly on money,” says Gregory Walton, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University. Instead, Walton and his team focus on creating the sense that saving energy is a community movement. We need to reach a point where saving energy becomes the social norm, he says, as is the case with wearing seat belts and recycling. “There’s a psychological transformation that happens,” Walton says. “It’s the same behavior, the same experience, but it comes to feel very different by virtue of its social need.” There are still other levers to pull. “I have a bit of an advantage, in that most religions can use guilt,” jokes Rev. Sally G. Bingham, President and Founder, California Interfaith Power & Light. “Sometimes it works. But mostly our congregations that are cutting their energy use are doing it for the right reasons,” she says. “Fairly often a congregation will begin this process for money saving reasons, but also because they feel they are doing the right thing” Chris King, Chief Regulatory Officer, eMeter, says customers need better information. “There’s this strong desire for more information and ability to do something,” he says. “What they really want to know: How much energy does each of my appliances use?” It’s helpful to know that electricity consumption spiked when I plugged in my toaster, he says, but without comparing it to the total, the bigger picture is lost. A better solution is to give customers a monthly breakdown for electricity use by all appliances, which he says can be done with up to 90% accuracy using a combination of the smart meter and algorithms.
This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco on July 22nd, 2011