How can innovation help consumers reduce their energy use?

When we think about innovation in energy efficiency, we often only consider technological solutions — such as LED lights – and high tech new appliances. But these can be expensive or take a while to make a difference to household bills.

It is in-fact the everyday actions in daily life that can have the easiest and most immediate impact on energy reduction. And this is where innovation is beginning to make a real impact.

Until recently, getting people to take action on saving energy at home and where they work has been underrated and considered more difficult than simply upgrading appliances. This view is changing. Research shows that as much as 40% of energy reduction comes from ‘behaviour change’, making it a key part of the answer energy saving over the long term.

People need an incentive to do things differently. Changing habits to help the planet is often not enough, people want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’. Innovation has helped answer this question, for instance, not many online platforms have found ways to make switching off lights and turning down the heating can seem like fun and not a chore.

People need an incentive to do things differently. Changing habits to help the planet is often not enough, people want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’

The DoNation has developed a simple yet sophisticated online pledge platform to help make sustainable living mainstream. Individuals can choose and record personal pledges to do things like cycle to work, switch energy supplier, or eat local seasonal food.

The overall aim is to help promote longer term changes in how people act and think to save energy and water, reduce waste, improve health and wellbeing and do something good for the local community. They can track how they are doing and share content with friends.

A great example of this is Alan Hayes who ran the London Marathon and chose to ask people for pledges instead of money. He raised 54 pledges of support from 39 friends and colleagues. People doing one of the actions, Lights Off (making sure unused lights are switched off), saved 1,500 hours of shining light bulbs. In total the pledges saved 2,496 kgCO₂ — that’s as much as 14 flights from London to Glasgow.

“Research shows that as much as 40% of energy reduction comes from ‘behaviour change, making it a key part of the answer energy saving over the long term.”

Advances in technology now mean that we can combine knowledge of our behaviour with the better management of our energy at home. You may have seen the advertising for Hive, from British Gas, and Nest, from Google, both of whom have taken the humble thermostat and turned it into a desirable, funky gadget that brings smart control and intelligence to our home energy consumption.

Both systems can provide a better living environment, reduce energy (and carbon emissions) and save you money. They are great examples of an acceleration in innovation that answers the question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ for people, and for the planet.

Planet First works with organisations across the UK helping reduce energy, carbon, water and waste. They specialize in carbon footprinting, data management, stakeholder engagement and communications to deliver continuous improvement in sustainability. As a result, they argue that they are at the forefront of technology, behavior change and innovation. www.planetfirst.co.uk @ThePlanetMark

 


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