The Power of Measurement
Fact is, the pointy-haired boss is right; when it comes to changing people's habits and saving energy, measurement and feedback make all the difference. Andrew Savitz at the Triple Bottom Line notes that when his wife drives her Prius, she sets the display on fuel economy, and because of the direct feedback of information on miles per gallon, adjusts her driving patterns accordingly. The Economist noted this as well:
"WHEN a car has a fuel-efficiency gauge—a continuous display on the dashboard showing the rate of fuel consumption—it tends to promote frugal driving. Trying to use as little fuel as you can, by driving more smoothly and being a little less heavy on the accelerator, can even become a game of sorts. Nissan, a Japanese carmaker, has calculated that fuel-efficiency gauges can reduce fuel consumption by an average of 10%, so it has decided to put them in all its cars."
The Economist then asks the question:
"What if you did the same thing to houses? A variety of products can provide real-time information about electricity consumption. Working out how much energy a house is using is harder than with a car, because electricity meters are generally hidden away in cupboards or cellars, and many people find them hard to understand. So an easily understood real-time read-out, akin to a car's fuel-efficiency gauge, could make a big difference."
"No doubt some of the novelty of monitoring your power consumption will wear off, but the evidence from fuel-efficiency gauges in cars suggests that when something clearly shows people how to save money, they will follow its advice." ::Economist