Clean energy ideas and innovation hit peak excitement last year. In its “8 Tech Breakthroughs of 2015,” National Geographic profiled high-tech wonders such as autonomous cars, tall wind, tidal, fusion, fuel cells, home automation and more, enough to tantalize even the most discerning science fiction fan with the promise of what’s next in powering our world.
But the story actually saved the best for last. The biggest breakthrough? Decidedly low-tech. The last two paragraphs claimed the biggest news is the potential to reduce 20% of a home’s energy use through no- or low-cost behavioral changes, no smart gear required.
There is an inexpensive technology in our homes right now that can conserve energy immediately. It’s called a light switch, says a recent Carnegie Mellon report. Convincing a teenager to use that light switch every time they leave a room, however, is a social science challenge, not a technology challenge.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration states the 2014 average residential use was 911 kWh each month. According to the U.S. Census there are 115,610,216 households in the nation; a 20% savings translates into 252 billion kWh of energy saved. This is more than enough for every home in California and Florida!
Sounds great on paper, but have you tried changing a teenager’s behavior lately? It’s a daunting mission.
That’s exactly why community partners sponsored several JouleBug Challenges in schools around the country last year; competition and sharing are great ways to captivate a reluctant teenager.
When participants see the impact of their collective actions at the conclusion of a Joulebug Challenge, many are “blown away” with the results.
More often than not the final outcome is those same reluctant teenagers teaching their parents a thing or two about how to use resources more wisely.