In a recent article on Foreign Policy, Vaclav Smil explores the American tendency to use more energy per capita than citizens of almost any other country on the planet, without receiving any obvious benefits from this dramatic consumption. “The United States now faces the choice of curbing its energy appetite with deliberation, commitment, and foresight, or waiting for the unraveling economy to put it on a painful crash diet,” he concludes. Giving Americans the right motivation to deliberately curb this energy appetite is what Simple Energy is all about.
The article begins by pointing out that Americans are indeed capable of using energy efficiently, by pointing out the difference in consumption between commercial organizations and personal households. “U.S. industries from steel-making to plastics synthesis are among the world’s most energy-efficient; American agriculture is highly productive, as are America’s railroads. But for decades, Americans themselves have been living beyond their means, wasting energy in their houses and cars and amassing energy-intensive throwaway products on credit. The size of the average American house has more than doubled since the 1950s, and they are more often than not poorly insulated, inefficiently heated in the winter, and cooled to near-arctic temperatures in the summer.”
Clearly, there is an enormous opportunity here for utilities to help American homeowners become more energy efficient. While at first it may seem more complicated to devise energy saving systems for individuals rather than large organizations, basic principles of human psychology, behavioral economics and game theory actually make it quite simple to motivate people to save energy. By turning energy conservation into a fun game where people can compete online against their friends and neighbors, Simple Energy easily inspires people to take action in exchange for the opportunity to win points, prizes, and prestige among their peers.
Utilities can help Americans to become more energy efficient simply by giving them the right motivational tools to inspire them to take action. Surveys show that the majority of people say they would save energy if they knew it would save them money or help their community and the world.