Jan 25, 2009

Barriers to innovation and change: lack of awareness

Anne Murray Choudhary has brought to our attention the following observation on the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). OPA has decided a few years ago that a kilowatt saved is much cheaper than paying for a new kilowatt of installed capacity, and has therefore embarked on an ambitious program to reduce electricity demand. A key challenge they face is to address the lack of consumer awareness, a major barrier to change:

The Conservation Bureau of Ontario, which spearheads OPA’s efforts to reduce electricity, conducted a market research study in 2007 in an effort to evaluate consumers' attitude towards energy conservation. The research objective was to "identify barriers to electricity conservation knowledge and action". The findings by the firm Environics show that --
• Energy (generally) and electricity (specifically) are not salient issues for most Ontario consumers
• There is public awareness of a supply/demand issue in the province, when prompted
• Cost of electricity is not a “hot-button” issue – except in the North

• Concerns emerge about environmental impacts of production and consumption, when prompted - but not the focus of public’s environmental concerns

The Conservation Bureau had also conducted a
workshop in 2006 to gather intelligence on barriers from low-income housing residents. The workshop participants identified "Education and Communication", "Small Appliances and Lighting (efficiency)" and "Building Envelop and Systems" as key barriers. The Conservation Bureau's analysis also consists of specific mitigation plans for each barrier included in its workshop report.

So as part of its renewed efforts to educate consumers and communicate at the community level, the Conservation Bureau of Ontario, published in January 2nd, 2009 edition of the Kanata Kourier-Standard, a piece entitled "Conservation Zone" written by Peter Love, Chief Energy Conservation Officer of Ontario. Peter Love gives readers 10 easy steps to save money, and energy, in 2009 as a New Year's Resolution:

"1. Schedule a home energy audit. The auditor can tell you which home energy efficient changes are eligible for provincial and federal grants. Call 1-888-668-4636 and make an appointment today.

2. Install a programmable thermostat in your home. Every degree you drop reduces the heat costs by up to five per cent.

3. Change your furnace filter regularly - dirty filters make the fan work harder. Similarly, a clogged clothes dryer lint trap uses more energy and clothes take longer to dry.

4. Inspect exposed heating ducts and where you feel warm air leaks seal the ducts with special metallic tape. This keeps heat going where you want it.

5. Turn off the lights when you're not using them. Replace old, incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use 75 per cent less electricity and lasts longer.

6. Participate in Energy Conservation Week (May 17-23, 2009) and World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour on March 28, 2009.

7. Pull the plug on your old fridge and call the Great Refrigerator Roundup (1-877-797-9473). Older refrigerators can cost four times as much to run as a newer ENERGYSTAR model.

8. Buy cold-water soap for doing laundry. 85 to 90 per cent of energy used by washing machines goes towards heating the water.

9. Dryers alone account for six per cent of total household energy use in Ontario - use a drying rack indoors or an outdoor clothesline if possible.

10. Install weather stripping and caulking around windows and "sweeps" that seal the bottom of your outside doors. This can cut your heating bill by ten per cent."

Articles like the one in the Kanata Kourier-Standard can be found in many Ontario community papers and illustrate OPA’s continued efforts to increase consumer awareness of the benefits of energy conservation.

(Written by Anne Murray Choudhary, Telfer School of Management)

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