How long could you sit comfortably while a running tap sent water gushing down the sink? What would you do if you noticed one of your taps leaking? You’d call a plumber – usually pretty promptly. What about if your electricity was leaking?
Interesting concept, and probably something you rarely think about. So why don’t we care about plugging electricity leaks?
Let’s go to the obvious, unlike water, we can’t see electricity. Out of sight, out of mind.
With a leaking tap there is evidence, drips of water pooling from the source of the leak. With electricity, most people have no idea they are wasting – to use a water-equivalent metaphor – ‘bucket loads’ of electricity every day.
Why we care more about wasting water than electricity
So why do we care more about wasting water than we do about wasting electricity?
The answer lies somewhere between your meter box, your utilities bills and your television.
Your utility bill and the meter that underpins it is a good place to start. Of course it is true that the more electricity you consume, the more revenue your retailer makes from you as their customer, but let’s also consider that fact the existing metering technology, including so called smart meters, actually aren’t very smart at all.
As a consequence, your bill actually tells you very little apart from the total kilowatt hours consumed, a unit price and the amount due – maybe you get a headline comparison with prior billing periods.
But how does this help you actually manage your consumption? Well it doesn’t. You fix the leaking tap because you know where the problem is and you can see that the results of your intervention.
Let’s switch to your television, not because your TV is a drain on electricity, but because it’s where you are being pumped with advertising about saving water.
Governments and quasi-government agencies spend millions of dollars every year on marketing campaigns promoting the water wastage message.
Our obsession with saving water has become part of our growing environmental consciousness. So why is it that we pay little attention to being energy efficient – especially when 86 per cent of all electricity generated in Australia comes from fossil fuels?
It may be partly because we have been conditioned to value water as a precious resource that should not under any circumstance go to waste.
Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Let’s be clear this is not a trivial matter.
The Australian Energy Regulator in 2014 put the average household bill at $1,690. And for businesses the cost of energy can be significant, with electricity expenses accounting for about 15 per cent of a grocery store’s operating budget.
Cities are a massive drain on energy resources with buildings accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption.
The World Energy Council believes being energy efficient in buildings could result in energy savings of between 20 and 40 per cent.
A few years ago an IGA store in Western Australia made national headlines for shaving about $40,000 from their annual energy costs by making simple changes to the way they operated their business in order to save electricity
Electricity use is one of the biggest corporate overheads
For most businesses, electricity is one of the largest corporate overheads, but very few can pinpoint where the biggest leaks are.
While we would all like to use less energy to save money and save the planet current metering technology just hasn’t support business or households to know where the leaks are and what to do about them.
As a consequence, for most businesses, they don’t even know where to start. Technology that allows real time monitoring of electricity consumption is not yet available. Though as the CEO of energy efficiency company Ecocentric Energy, I can say watch this space!
Seeing electricity for the first time
Technology that allows real time monitoring of electricity consumption for every device in your business and home will allow people to “see” electricity for the first time and just like water, once you can “see” the leaks you are less likely to waste it.
Access to and analysis of meaningful energy data is both the biggest single barrier to energy efficiency and the biggest driver of success when implemented.
It won’t be long until real time electricity use data will be readily available. When it is we will flick the switch in the same way we turn off the tap to stop our hard-earned money going down the drain.
About Tim Bray
Tim Bray is the Chief Executive of energy efficiency company Ecocentric Energy. Ecocentric Energy is helping businesses around the world understand their electricity use and reduce energy consumption.