Category Archives: Energy

This past week, Washington DC was alive with the buzz the first US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC. It has been so gratifying to see all the attention paid to heads of state from African countries by President Obama and his cabinet, investors, and corporate leader. For those of us in the development community it is a long time coming.

One of the key themes of the summit is partnerships. Power Africa, a high-profile partnership of USAID and private sector partners, seeks to bring electricity to sub Saharan Africa where 70% of the population lives without electricity. Just imagine Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda will full power!

There is also great interest in Africa as the next big tech hub and market for technology products. South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria all boast about technology users, innovators and investors. The market for mobile phones continues to grow exponentially throughout the continent.

American, European and Asian businesses are all angling for a piece of the market.

As a development person who has worked in Africa for 20 year, it is thrilling to see such enthusiasm for Africa. Finally people are talking about countries, not just a continent. But more importantly investors are seeing the rich resources both human and material that most countries in Africa have to offer.

Partnerships (which has been a mantra of our work for decades), have been forged this week that entail commitments of millions of dollars. The next five years will be exciting times for the continent.

When a dress is more than a dress….

Jill Biden’s comments on the stunning dress she wore for the state dinner captured another important side of the Africa I know.

Dr. Biden visited the Democratic Republic of Congo last month promoting a platform of economic empowerment and education for women. She visited a woman- owned business, Vlisco that employs women that are victims of gender violence. She asked that they make a dress for her to wear at the White House dinner honoring the heads of state participating in the US-Africa Leaders Summit. Using a brilliant blue wax print fabric locally-designed, the seamstresses worked over night to prepare the dress for her to take with her back to Washington the next morning.

Dr. Biden told the Washington Post: “For me, the fabric and style of this dress embodies the beauty and strength of the women I met throughout my visit to Africa last month”.

Couldn’t agree more….


 J Biden dress

Photo: Washington Post

It is easy to forget that behavior change theories and principles can be applied effectively to energy conservation and climate change as it is to disease prevention.

What is amazing to me is that what we’ve been doing in global and domestic health for more than 40 years has not crossed over into the energy and environmental sectors as much as it should have.
This became apparent when I participate at a panel session at the American Council for Energy Efficiency Conference in Baltimore on 31 March.

As background, Another Option was invited by its colleagues at Cadmus to be on the A Shift in Perspective: From Measures to Customers panel and to present examples and experiences of successful behavior change from another sector. Public health has been applying behavior change for years and that’s our primary sector….so it was quite fun and revealing to participate.

Though I’ve done behavior change for energy efficiency and climate change in Africa what I learned at the conference about US consumers was very interesting:

I learned there are over 21 actions a person can take to be energy efficient….wonder how many there are for staying healthy?
But several of these are one-time behaviors…such as recycling old appliances, participating in a home energy analysis, or upgrading HVAC and water heating systems. Then there are the others that require on- going actions — controlling electrical use, purchasing the energy efficient appliance, and buying and loving the new light bulbs.

On paper it seems so obvious because economics or policy have changed our selection options or pocketbook choices. Appliances are more efficient in its water and heating usage; the new light bulbs have replaced the old amid grumbles and complaints; and energy isn’t cheap so keeping the windows closed and thermostat down is a no-brainer.

But for the other less regulated choices the energy companies need to know more about their consumers and users. What has been missing is an analysis of solid consumer research and segmentation by practices and behaviors, gender, geographic areas that tell us about the energy consumers and the environment that they live in – whether it supports or discourages good consumers’ behaviors.

This attention to understanding consumers is a fairly recent trend for the energy efficiency sector, and there was great interest in the programs discussed in the session. But it still is a hard sell. As it was in health. Even now we hear “just tell them and they’ll do it.”

Hmmmm….I don’t think the data supports that.

energy efficiency