Man Vs. Technology (In Energy Efficient Buildings), Part II

About a year ago, I wrote about how the energy efficiency of buildings is very dependent on human behavior. The idea is that, no matter how good your energy efficiency technology is, it won’t help if it is counteracted by someone opening the window at the wrong time or turning up the thermostat for no reason. And believe me, as someone whose grandmother keeps the thermostat on 76 degrees – in Florida! – that’s a real concern.

But these are acts of omission…or, at the very least, thoughtlessness. If someone is too hot or too cold, they’re not thinking about their building’s energy use, just their own comfort. And so that’s why I’m so interested in how software and automation technology can be used to counteract human error as a way to minimize energy use (and how our region can be an international leader in providing those products, with the help of BETI). What I didn’t anticipate are the acts of commission with regard to building energy use, like creating a human blockade to stop your local utility from installing smart meters!

Pacific Gas and Electric’s campaign to introduce wireless smart meters in Northern California is facing fierce opposition from an eclectic mix of Tea Party conservatives and left-leaning individualists who say the meters threaten their liberties and their health. In the San Francisco Bay Area, “Stop Smart Meters” signs and bumper stickers have been multiplying on front lawns and cars. Four protesters have been arrested for blocking trucks seeking to deliver the meters. (emphasis added)

Wow. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since there was technology, there was a fear of it. And sure, I wake up every once in a while in a cold sweat that the robots we create will rise up and become our overlords, but that’s mostly too much Battlestar Galactica before bed (or a visit to the BSG exhibit at the EMP/SFM!). In all seriousness, data privacy is big business, and you definitely see those news articles every once in a while about “someone loses laptop containing 100,000 social security numbers.” There’s apparently a whole website devoted to the subject. A lot of people still refuse to pay for things online using their credit card.

So it’s not just about making technology that’s smarter than us, but also technology that people trust. (Plus corporations that people trust to use that data properly). While that’s an issue much larger than energy efficiency technology, it’s important for the EE industry to think about it.  And it may very well be another advantage of the BETI approach. By demonstrating that something works the way it says it’s going to AND that the data from that technology is being used responsibly, it becomes demystified and less threatening. Which quickens mass adoption and helps reach all those aggressive energy reduction goals we’re setting.

Now, if only BETI could protect me from the Cylons…

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