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.