Kelly Pflaum writes for Medil Reports at Northwestern University in the US about the role social networking and education can play to promote energy efficiency. As you read this, remember that Energy Efficiency in Industrial Processes (EEIP), based in Brussels, now has over 23,700 followers on various social networking platforms.
Social networking, education key to energy efficiency
Energy stakeholders gathered at the 2013 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in Chicago. Exhibits show off new technology in energy efficiency.
Energy consumers may start seeing more efficiency campaigns through their social network connections, as the future of energy efficiency expansion may rely increasingly on social networking and customer engagement, according to the CEO of ComEd in Chicago.
“Social media is an untapped resource in this realm,” Anne Pramaggiore, CEO and president of ComEd, said. “We’ve dipped our toes into the waters, but we think the waters are boundless here.”
Energy stakeholders from the region are meeting this week at the 11th Midwest Energy Solutions Conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago to discuss the future of energy efficiency. In an address to nearly 600 people in the energy business, Pramaggiore explained that ComEd is in its fifth year of energy-efficiency programs.
“I think it’s beyond dispute that energy efficiency is reshaping our industry and will continue to do so,” she said.
Joe Plummer, an engineer with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, identified a few challenges to the future of energy efficiency, including new federal standards for energy and new stringent residential and commercial energy codes. However, he also identified some opportunities for energy efficiency, including LEDs, utility partnerships and behavioral change programs among consumers.
Pramaggiore explained that ComEd utilizes residential customer surveys to understand their customers’ awareness, attitudes and behaviors when it comes to energy efficiency.
“Without a doubt, customers care about energy efficiency,” Pramaggiore said. “Ninety-two percent of our customers surveyed consistently say it’s important to know their home is energy efficient, and that they have done all they can to lower energy costs.”
But when looking at the future of energy efficiency at ComEd, Pramaggiore identified technology, such as LED lamps; efficient efficiency, such as smart meters; and social networks as the key elements.
“The most critical element of energy efficiency…is networks,” she said. “We need to recognize that energy efficiency…is as dependent on the element of customer engagement as it is on technology. And engagement happens best in network patterns.”
According to Pramaggiore, these social networks could include local communities, interactive networks utilizing the Internet or networks connected through incentivized behavior.
ComEd, along with 70 other utilities, launched a Facebook site last summer that allows customers to share energy efficiency information with customers around the country, she said. That’s just one example of how this networking could work.
“We need to think of new ways to get energy efficiency into the public consciousness and…to make energy efficiency more top of mind, to generate awareness, create excitement and engagement,” she said.
Patrick Michalkiewicz, manager of energy efficiency at Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas in the Chicago area, suggested that behavior change programs at the residential level will also be important to the future of meeting energy efficiency goals.
“We need to seek other ways where we can stimulate the market for transformation,” Michalkiewicz said.
But starting energy efficiency awareness at an even younger age could be key too, he said.
“In my mind, [education] is something that’s really critical, especially if it could become part of middle school or high school curriculums, where we could teach these kids what impact energy efficiency can have, and, to me, that’s where the grassroots transformation has to come, because if you build it there, they will start living it,” Michalkiewicz said.
The speakers identified key elements of the future of energy efficiency that revolve around their customers.
“I believe that we are in a transition point in our energy efficiency work,” Pramaggiore said. “The low-hanging fruit has been picked, and we need to start looking at the higher branches.”