Big Surprise: People Like Saving Money and Energy

Here is a shocker: a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Energy Department (PNNL) demonstrated that if you give people control and tools to monitor and adjust their electricity use, they use them. If everyone had these tools, it could eliminate the need for 30 large coal fired power plants and $70 billion in construction and infrastructure.

For the PNNL it was a test of behaviour as well as technology. 112 homes were equipped with new meters, thermostats, water heaters and dryers connected by Invensys controls and IBM software. Homeowners could customize their energy use to maximize savings or comfort or convenience. Not surprisingly, when given such feedback tools they modified their lifestyle patterns to suit.

From the New York Times: "I was astounded at times at the response we got from customers," said Robert Pratt, a staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the program director for the demonstration project. "It shows that if you give people simple tools and an incentive, they will do this."
Jerry Brous saved 15%. "Your thermostat and your water heater are day-trading for you"

according to PNNL:

"We're not talking about traditional demand response where consumers have little or no control," said Rob Pratt, PNNL program manager for the GridWise program. "We're talking about putting the power into the hands of the consumers, who can customize their energy use to save money or maximize comfort. They can check the financial implications of their decisions at any time, and adjust or override their settings whenever they choose."

Participants received constantly updated pricing information via the Internet. The ability to connect the homes with energy providers as well as the grid was made possible through IBM technology known as a service oriented architecture (SOA). A "virtual" bank account was established for each household and money saved by adjusting home energy consumption in collaboration with needs of the grid was converted into real money kept by the homeowners. With the help of these tools, consumers easily and automatically changed how and when they used electricity, for their own financial benefit and the benefit of the grid.

"The tools used in the study gave consumers the chance to be active participants in managing the electric grid. When you give people the right tools, most of the time they will put them to good use," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton.

TreeHugger has said this all along; people are smart and make adjustments when it is in their best interest. When fuel prices go up they stop buying SUVs; when given real information and feedback they go for efficiency and savings. Rolling out this technology is a lot cheaper and more effective than 30 coal fired power plants. ::Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and ::New York Times

Tags: Electricity