If you are an environmentally conscious person, you want to change the world for the better. One way to do this is to set an example by using less energy and greening the electricity that you do use. As more people follow your lead and do what you do, it will lighten our combined footprint.
Although your family, friends, and neighbors may roll their eyes when you talk about how we can all act collectively to conserve our environment, considering you a hopeless idealist, you are not alone in your quest to create a better world. The government is doing its best to make people more aware of how the energy grid is not an inexhaustible source of energy. In addition, your energy firm, too, is spreading the message to its subscribers, trying to persuade them to limit their unnecessary energy use and buy more energy-efficient appliances.
In fact, energy firms all across North America are doing what they can to persuade consumers to be less wasteful. So how are they managing to make people more aware of the green revolution? Let’s take a look at a few ways:
1. Energy companies offer a green energy premium. In Alberta, Canada, ATCO electric services allow consumers to select 25% to 100% of their electricity plan from renewable sources for only a small premium. They call it the “Green Premium,” and it’s charged on subscribers’ consumption in kWh.
2. Energy companies make neighborhood comparisons. The idea of keeping up with the Jones’s, and even trouncing them, has long been a friendly psychological game played in neighborhoods. The energy companies are using this mindset as a strategy to make people aware of how wasteful their energy consumption is compared to their neighbors. By sending out literature in their billings about how a neighboring home that is about the same size with the same number of inhabitants is a model of energy consumption, people respond by lowering their own energy consumption. Besides a flyer enclosed with the bill, the use of smart meters is allowing people to figure out how much energy they are consuming in their home, and this gives them a chance to compare themselves to their neighbors. Comparison, then, appears to spark an interest in adopting a more conservative use of energy.
3. Energy companies include green energy consumption as part of the conversation about home improvements. Although people have long since learned that it’s more energy-efficient to use certain appliances, like LED light bulbs, consumers were not paying much attention until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created the Energy Star program. This program has been one of the most successful energy conservation efforts ever implemented. The voluntary movement has made significant contributions to saving energy and climate protection. This successful initiative has given energy companies a handle to discuss “home improvement programs” with home owners to encourage them to see saving energy and money as a form of home improvement. Now home owners don’t simply think of home improvement merely thinking as a way of upgrading their décor. In addition, by talking about the benefits of keeping homes warmer in winter, the abstract idea of long-term savings becomes more palatable.
4. Energy companies make energy waste easier to understand. Often consumers waste electricity out of sheer ignorance. They are not aware of the environmental problems associated with wasteful use, nor do they recognize their own role in it. By using colorful charts, electric companies are making consumers more aware of how much energy they can save. Charts provide immediate comprehension. They are superior to written description because numbers are often too technical for most people to grasp. By realizing how much money they are throwing away, consumers are now more likely to act based on energy conservation recommendations.
5. Energy companies inform consumers about peak energy consumption times, and how to avoid them as much as possible. Energy firms are now encouraging customers to use energy during off-peak times. This is an effective strategy to encourage use of energy during early mornings or late nights because energy pricing is based on demand based on purchasing wholesale energy in an open market. This means consumers have to pay more if they decide to use most of their energy during peak times.
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Greening Electricity: Part of the Big Picture
Although the government and electric companies are working hard to help people be less wasteful of natural resources, it’s an uphill battle. This is because the concept of sustainability itself is not an easy one to grasp. One popular definition comes from the UN Bruntland commission report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
Ultimately, then, greening electricity is part of a larger effort to create a sustainable world. Some efforts like buying solar energy from residential homes that have access are ingenious. By doing your part by conserving electricity, you’re contributing to a better future for humanity.