Submitted by CES on Wed, 02/09/2011 - 12:48
Taking a page from Mothers everywhere, conventional wisdom says that we should be eating our energy efficiency “vegetables” before having any renewable energy “dessert”. While it certainly makes sense that undertaking low cost and no cost efficiency measures should come first, that advice often gets ignored. For when it comes to using energy, habits and cognitive limitations cause people to not act rationally. Energy appears cheap with just the monthly utility bill to go on. This creates the disincentive to adopt even simple energy efficiency measures. The result is that bowl of healthy “vegetables” often remains uneaten.
Research is emerging which indicates that the conventional wisdom has it backwards; that in order to reduce energy consumption, renewable energy should come before energy efficiency. In an exhaustive 632 page report on the impact of the California Solar Initiative, one of the key findings was that participants adopted 30% more energy efficiency measures than non-participants (see CPUC California Solar Initiative 2009 Impact Evaluation Final Report, Section 10, page 10-68). This finding supports what has been observed many times in the field; that it is not until people have made the switch and adopted or endorsed renewable energy that they significantly change their wasteful energy habits. Whether it is energy or food, vegetables are always good for us. But when it comes to energy, research and observation is telling us that we should be eating our dessert first.
I welcome your comments.