An engineering dean at San Jose State University Engineering Dept, Ms. Belle Wei, recently wrote a clear, organized article on the benefits of real-time 'feedback' when we purchase or use electronic appliances equipment or video games. (Or, drive.)
Knowing what things cost, over the full lifestyle, can guide us to more informed choices, i.e. usually lower cost, presumably energy-efficient selections that do not sacrifice features and, in effect, create demand (a market) for greener devices. This is the "cold beer, hot shower" theory of human behavior: if we can get what we want and pay less for it, we'll go for it.
A similar argument works for Sacramento's electric utility (SMUD) and others: simply giving consumers a monthly report on how they are doing relative to the neighbors can reduce overall electric demand. This is also called 'social norms', or roughly peer pressure.
It does work, but is also a form of 'market knows best'.
However, I think at least two more ingredients might help push along consumer behavior
- carbon price
In particular, Dean Wei, sites benefits of more efficient appliances as a first step. And I am sure she knows the benefit to China's clear, color-coded refrigerator efficiency labeling - regulations - in its domestic market. (She is also a founder of China-US Green Energy Council.)
The California Energy Commission (CEC) in fact helped push the refrigerator market years ago (and now TV market) by requiring innovation. It worked in the US and brought down the price of refrigerators and increased their efficiency. (The problems begin when we start to buy larger refrigerators and ALSO keep the old ones.) It is no coincidence that China has refrigerator labeling (more in another post).
Industry, like we've seen with recent TV regulations, starts out by saying it can't be done.
Bottom line, we need everything going for us to reduce American energy use per capita and bring anywhere close to the Europeans.
- feedback to consumer, social norms, etc.
- carbon price
Article in San Jose Mercury:
More about Dean Wei