t f

Problem 10

Energy efficiency is not being embraced to the required degree due to political, financial and cultural drivers despite significant savings potential.

Problem Dimensions

Reliance on fossil fuel-based infrastructure

• Accessible and cheap electricity reduces the urgency of energy efficiency.
• Aging infrastructure decreases energy efficiency, but political and financial barriers impede the adoption of smart grids and clean-technologies.[1]
• While making changes now is essential for a better future, these changes might be perceived as too disruptive to our current lifestyles to be acceptable.[2]

Procurement of Physical Capital

The ownership structures, where the owners are different from the users, of physical capital accrue the benefits of energy efficiency disproportionately.

• E.g. Implementing expensive energy saving equipment into buildings raises the cost of construction for developers. Owners, who might be different from occupants, may not be willing to pay a premium for this benefit. As a result, developers opt for less energy efficient solutions.

Demand Side Management

Support for energy demand-side management programs is often inversely correlated with energy prices.

• Conservation is the best and cheapest answer to British Columbia’s growing electricity demand which has made the province a net importer of energy.[3]
• But the price of energy is still low enough that energy efficiency is still not a pressing need.

Economic incentives alone are insufficient to embed energy efficiency into our daily lives.

• Rebate incentives have weak effects because the future is underweighted due to a lack of vividness so the benefit of a rebate has less impact on decision making.
• Energy price increases have strong effects because the cost of a loss is vivid and immediate.


Conventional Solutions
Education Campaigns: More attention would be paid to energy efficiency if the general public had a better understanding of energy and how it is wasted.

Energy labelling, such as Energy Star, should be expanded and made mandatory for equipment.

Low interest loans for energy efficient equipment investments to overcome the barrier of high upfront capital costs.

Grant free energy assessment tools to allow companies as well as households to see how they compare to others and what they could do to improve.

Include energy efficiency education in manufacturing, technology and design degrees.

Progressive Solutions

Build energy efficiency into social norms to buttress financial incentives.

Although environmental protection is often cited as motive for actions that conserve energy, descriptive norms (perception of what is commonly done in specific situations) was most highly correlated with conservation behaviour.

A. Initiatives will succeed by:
• Connecting desirable actions to immediate and concrete results.

  1. E.g. Report the number of EnerBucks earned with every action.
    1. E.g. Recharging your electric vehicle after switching over from a conventional car.

• Reinforcing desirable outcomes by appealing to emotions.

  1. Build community pride around energy efficiency.
  2. E.g. the City of Vancouver strives to be the Greenest City in the world by 2020.

• Making energy visible.

  1. i. E.g. B.C. Hydro’s Power Smart program utilizes social media to promote conservation as economic incentives, are often insufficient to change behaviour.
  2. Implementing EnerBucks would also serve this goal.

B. Once the majority of voters embrace the need for energy efficiency, politicians will face less risk in legislating policies that support the growth of renewable energy.
• At this point, initiatives like candidates running for public office to report their party’s corporate emissions in every advertisement will become normal.
  1. [1] Explained in Problems 3 and 7.
  2. [2] Explained in Problems 3 and 9.
  3. [3] Lisa Coltart, Director of Power Smart at BC Hydro and speaker for the Power to the People session at ISES 2011.


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