Thursday, 8 October 2009

Not so Scilly

The Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, have an unusual property that made them perfect for an energy reduction experiment: they have just a single cable coming from the mainland that supplies all the electricity to the islands, having only been connected to the national grid in 1998. As a result, monitoring how much electricity the islands are using is relatively straightforward.

This led environmentalist Dr Matt Prescott to choose to use the islands in an experiment to see how far people could reduce their energy consumption. He created E-Day: a single day (October 6th, 2009) on which the people of the Scilly Islands would do their best to reduce their consumption of electricity.

After the event, the results seem rather underwhelming. The overall use of electricity by the islands was just 1.2% lower than expected. This can be partially explained by bad weather, but it does seem surprising that a concerted effort could not lead to a greater reduction.

In fact, however, there is more to it than this. One family, for example, managed to reduce their consumption (which was being separately measured) by a whopping 50.3%. What did they have that no-one else had? This family had a device measuring the consumption of their home, and a display so they could see how much they were consuming.

It's one thing to ask people to switch things off and save electricity, but if you provide them with direct feedback and a way to assess how much they're using and the impact of their actions, then they're much more likely to succeed. This is what AlertMe Energy is all about: empowering people with knowledge about the way they use electricity and giving them guidance about how to reduce it.