Current energy metrics do nothing to help customer efficiency

Current energy metrics do nothing to help customer efficiency

Energy usage is largely affected by information received by customers about their own energy usage -- as well as ways to decrease bills. According to a new report, attempts in the past to inform customers have been limited or flawed, and there are numerous ways to improve this system.

According to the study by Richard P. Larrick, Jack B. Soll, & Ralph L. Keeney of Behavioral Science & Policy (BSP), making rates of energy consumption clear to customers is an important factor for the reduction of those fuels.

"Although individual consumer decisions have a large effect on emissions --passenger vehicles and residential electricity use account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States -- consumers remain poorly informed about how much energy they consume," the researchers said.

They found that there are many ways to inform customers about their energy consumption -- as well as offering motivators to reduce it. One suggestion is to print the information, including the energy requirements, right on a product label, such as miles-per-gallon (MPG) on a vehicle.

"The familiar MPG metric is most prominent, but one can also see gallons per 100 miles (GPHM), annual fuel cost, a rating of greenhouse gas emissions, and a five-year relative cost or savings figure compared with what one would spend with an average vehicle," the report said. "The original label introduced in the 1970s contained two MPG figures. As the label was being redesigned for 2013, there was praise for including new information and criticism for providing too much information."

However, the idea of a fuel economy label could also be used for many other energy products, including appliance labels, smart meters and smart meter feedback, and home energy ratings.

"How information is presented always matters," the researchers explained. "More often than not, people pay attention to what they see and fail to think further about what they really want to know. Too often, people lack the awareness, knowledge, and motivation to consider relevant information beyond what is presented to them."

On top of this, incomplete or misleading metrics can also lead to a poor understanding of energy use, which in turn leads to an understanding of the consequences.

Based on these factors, the researchers developed four objectives for solving this problem, which they identify as CORE -- to create programs to better educate people about energy use, as well as making informed decisions about their behavior.

The four objectives include:

    Consumption: Provide consumption rather than efficiency information.
    Objectives: Link energy-related information to objectives that people value.
    Relative: Express information relative to meaningful comparisons.
    Expand: Provide information on expanded scales.

The study found that listing an energy unit in a denominator or ratio -- like MPG -- could produce false impressions, which leads to their consumption tactic.

"Consumption metrics are more helpful than efficiency metrics because they not only convey what direction is better (lower) but also provide clear insights about the size of improvements," the researchers explained.

The objectives tactic will make cost and environmental impact clearer, and give people objectives that they value. In the relative principle, the researchers suggest expressing energy-related information in in a way that allows consumers to compare their own energy use with meaningful benchmarks, such as other consumers or other products. And expanding these goals allows energy-related information to be expressed on expanded scales, "which allows the impact of a change to be seen over longer periods of time or over greater use," according to the researchers.

"We recognize that better energy metrics can have only limited impact. Better metrics can improve and inform decisions and remind people of what they value, but they may do little to change people's attitudes about energy or the environment," the study found. "An understanding of what motivates people to be concerned with energy use complements... how best to provide information."

Source: Smart Grid News

Smart Grid Bulletin February 2019

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