Monitoring energy vs taking real steps

This section has focussed before on monitoring energy and the distinction between knowing (or thinking you know) how much energy you’re using, and taking real, measurable steps to reduce that energy consumption in a range of ways, eg thermostat control, insulation, lowere energy appliances and domestic habits. This article from last Saturday’s Guardian and the letter it generated in response make this point perfectly.

From the article:

studies show they cut energy consumption by 3% or less

From the letter:

This device provides us with a conversation piece and not much else.

Very little change in habits

The article covers all sorts of reasons why smart meters are not nearly as smart as the energy companies and the government would like to think – not least because later models render earlier obsolete, you may be faced with having to start all over again if you switch energy companies and the cost of installation vastly outweighs the cost savings – but mainly because consumers with these meters installed are showing very little change in habits.

Monitoring energy is potentially an extremely useful element in managing the home energy economy. No-one is suggesting we blunder around in ignorance of the costs of our energy or the power required by our various appliances. The problem is that from the consumer’s perspective, installation of a smart meter is interesting and diverting in the short term, strokes the part of the brain that allows people to feel they’re ‘doing their bit’ and being energy aware, but in reality does nothing more than simply monitoring energy which in itself does nothing to to reduce consumptiom.

Old-fashioned energy saving

monitoring energy

This door has a letter box draught excluder and a draughtbusting curtain

Energy companies may well be better off giving their customers old-fashioned energy saving measures such as curtains over the door, letter box and pet door draught excluders, sausages along the bottom of the door and foil behind the radiator.

Some of those measures will be harder to quantify than others, but no-one can argue that they’re effective and less prone to malfunction.

So far, smart meters have done more for the energy companies than the consumer, bringing down meter reading costs and billing errors, all costly issues for the energy companies to deal with. Energy monitoring and energy saving are two different and distinct things, and shouldn’t be conflated.