A few days ago, while I was watching the news, I saw a report that I thought was pretty interesting. They were highlighting how Google is trying to launch a new program which would allow people to measure how much energy they used in their home on a daily basis by recording the energy consumption on a small monitor which goes somewhere in your house and is somehow connected to your home utilities. The report noted that if people decreased their daily energy consumption by only a small margin it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off of the road. I had never heard of anything like this and found the idea fascinating, so decided to look into it a little more. I found an article called "10 Monitoring Tools Bringing Smart Energy Home" that explained how Google's idea is not necessarily a new one. There are actually quite a few companies that develop systems to record an individual's daily energy consumption. The article explains how the systems work and why this is a particularly important time for the companies who develop them:
"Thanks to funds from the stimulus package and renewed attention to energy savings, 2009 is the year companies are planning to launch wireless energy dashboards that will sit in your home, monitor energy data from your electricity meter and let you know if you’re being an energy hog...This year is particularly important to these mostly young companies, as President Obama has pledged to help utilities install 40 million more smart meters (basically digital meters that create a 2-way connection with the power grid and the utility). Smart meters installed at homes can unleash data about the fluctuating price of electricity throughout the day, enabling consumers that have energy management tools to shift energy consumption to the time of day when power is cheapest. For utilities, that can mean better management of the power grid and eliminate the need to build out expensive power generating systems."
If these monitors can become common in homes throughout the nation, it seems like a great way cut energy consumption and begin a widespread effort to stop global warming. However, even if these monitors are effective in recording the energy consumption of large amounts of people, I have to question whether or not people will actually change their habits in order to conserve energy. People already have to pay for their utilities every month - gas, water, and electrical - however, the only people who actually see and record the amount of individual energy consumption right now are the utility companies. I hope that actually being able to see how much energy one consumes every day will be enough to alter peoples' habits pertaining to energy consumption. I hope people don't simply rationalize the amount of energy they use by simply saying that they pay for it. Because even though we may not run out of energy, our spendthrift consumption on energy will take a toll on our planet if we don't start making drastic changes.