Will more information really cut consumer energy usage?

If consumers really had visibility into their energy consumption for every device and appliance would they really change their behavior?

Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner outlined the company's work on power management sensors and display technologies so consumers know exactly how much power they were using. The crux of the argument is that if consumers knew how much energy they consumed they would naturally scale back.

Will that theory work out in practice?

The consensus view is that information is power---at least when it comes to energy consumption. Google, Microsoft and Intel and many smart grid players are betting this way. The general theme: Small improvements from consumers will go along way to conserving power.

Also: Intel demos smart home energy monitoring system

Let's consider a few key slides from Rattner's presentation on Wednesday.




In this world, individual energy consumption efforts turn into self-sustaining neighborhoods that use microgrids for power.

Why the skepticism? Humans are a quirky bunch and sometimes they just don't care about the information telling them they shouldn't do something. Consider smokers? Who doesn't know that smoking is bad for you? Yet there are still smokers.

Another interesting experiment is New York City's move to make sure you know exactly how many calories are in that cookie you're about to buy. When you see the calorie counts it's downright shocking sometimes.

However, this additional calorie information didn't deter consumers from buying high-fat foods, according to one study.

Is information power? Sometimes, but only when there's a motivated individual involved. Knowledge about energy consumption may be the equivalent of having great calorie information. The data is nice to have, but behavior may not change all that much.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com