4 proven ways to meet or beat your city's energy efficiency goals

Wed, 2016-05-18 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Many cities have energy efficiency at the top of their smart city project list. And no wonder — it improves the environment while saving money while setting an example for the private sector.

But setting energy efficiency goals is the easy part. How do you meet or exceed those goals. Fortunately, the Smart Cities Council includes members and advisors with decades of energy efficiency experience. Below you'll find four ideas that can help take your efficiency efforts over the top. — Kevin Ebi

1. Give people real-time data
Knowledge is power — literally. Conservation programs are more effective if people can easily see where they are wasting power.

A project involving Council Lead Partner Microsoft provided some residents near Paris with real-time consumption information and analytics. People with the detailed consumption information trimmed their energy use by between 10% and 20% — even without special financial incentives.

2. Provide financial motivation
Of course, financial incentives can motivate people to work even harder to conserve. Council Associate Partner Enel has experimented with a variety of pricing models, including some that offer free electricity in the middle of the night when the utility has more power than customers.

The result? The utility found that some customers were willing to set alarms to make sure they started dishwashers and other power-hungry appliances during the free period, reducing the burden on the power company during traditional peak periods.

3. Educate people about the power they aren’t using
If your summer energy conservation messaging only talks about turning down air conditioners, you’re missing out on a huge source of savings: the energy people use but aren’t really using. The New York Times tested the power consumption of about three dozen items in a typical home and found many use the same amount of power whether they’re on or off.

Before you dismiss this as no big deal, consider a Natural Resources Defense Council study that finds it takes 50 power plants to generate enough energy for all the devices that are off or sleeping. That’s not only a waste of resources, it can add significantly to your carbon footprint. Don’t neglect this phantom usage in your educational outreach efforts.

4. Embrace the Internet of Things
Another way to encourage conservation is to help them save power without requiring them to even do anything. Council Lead Partner GE says the Internet of Things is helping to make that possible.

For instance, an intelligent home thermostat may be able to check weather forecasts and adjust its programming so that it’s not heating or cooling more than it really has to. Someone with a little technical skill could do this on their own, but as the technology becomes more widespread, consider helping.

Smart Cities Readiness Guide …
Cities cannot function without energy. Check out the energy section of the Council’s Smart Cities Readiness Guide for ideas and strategies to power your city more efficiently and sustainably. Additionally, you’ll also learn how to use energy to jumpstart other smart cities initiatives.