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Energy Use: The Human Dimension 8 Conclusions and Recommendations THE ENERGY SYSTEM AND ENERGY POLICY This book emphasizes certain characteristics of the U.S. energy system and the major actors within it that, we believe, have been given insufficient consideration in energy policy analyses. We believe that fuller consideration of those characteristics will lead to broader and more enlightened policy debates and more effective energy policy. This chapter highlights those characteristics, identifies their general implications for energy policy, and presents some recommendations for action. Three characteristics of the national energy system have repeatedly impressed us as central: diversity; uncertainty and mistrust; and the issue of control. Evidence of diversity in the U.S. energy system is readily apparent; it is evident even in the ways people and experts think about energy (as we discussed in Chapter 2). Tremendous variation also exists in the needs and practices of energy users, so that analyses based on an average situation are likely to be wrong in many or most particular cases. The effects of diversity may be magnified in an energy emergency, because a varied pattern of shortages may be superimposed on a variety of needs. In addition, perceptions of an emergency vary greatly, even among similarly situated observers. Because of the diversity in the system, decentralized solutions to energy problems must be seriously considered. Our interest in local energy activities (Chapter 7) came partly from the awareness that these activities have been, and can be, field tests of the practicality of using decentralized approaches to a range of energy problems.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension Uncertainty affects both the public and policy makers. In an uncertain environment, conflicting interests and changing political positions generate a welter of confusing and contradictory authoritative statements about energy. Consequently, it is no surprise that mistrust is endemic. Because energy users are justifiably skeptical of information offered them, the credibility of an information source may make more of a difference than the accuracy of the information offered. Experience leads us to believe that mistrust would be even more serious in a major energy emergency. In short, credibility may be the central problem for energy conservation programs, for emergency preparedness and management policies, and for any other energy programs and policies that rely for their effectiveness on public response. Energy debates are, in an important sense, debates about control. Energy is often symbolic of control or loss of freedom. A major motive behind some local energy activities has been to gain for communities a greater ability to control or manage their destinies, as they see themselves buffeted by national policies and world and national economic forces. The perception and experience of control are also powerful determinants of individual response, and they increase behavioral commitment to future action. Thus, energy policies and programs are likely to be better accepted and more effective if they increase individual and local control, rather than impose decisions from outside. We believe control is currently a particularly important issue in energy policy because of the relatively low level of public trust in energy institutions. In addition to these characteristics of the energy system, several facts about the actors in the system have also repeatedly impressed us. Although it is often useful to think of these actors as economically rational decision makers, several other processes govern their behavior as well. One of these processes is behavioral momentum. Individuals and organizations are, in part, creatures of habit. They establish routines and stick to them, they work to reduce uncertainty and change in their environments, and they avoid or ignore problems. People, organizations, and local governments often persist in outmoded energy-using practices despite information that they would benefit from change. Individuals, furthermore, usually justify their past behavior to themselves, strengthening their tendency to keep doing what they have done in the past. Organizations create subunits and standard operating procedures that have a similar effect. Behavioral momentum can be reversed by getting the relevant people actively involved in a change process: any new activity tends to commit them to a new course of action. The principle of involvement can be used manipulatively, but it can also be an extension of a democratic decision process: a decision made after political debate constitutes a behavioral commitment for a community.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension Another important process is imitation. The behavior of individuals and organizations is influenced by example, especially the example of their peers and the opinion leaders of their peer groups. Individuals often follow the examples set by neighbors, relatives, and people they know from work or religious groups; firms follow their competitors or industry leaders; and local governments follow neighboring governments. New energy-saving practices spread through social networks along lines of personal communication, and with knowledge of this process, policy makers can help spread such practices. In energy emergencies, adaptive responses can spread rapidly among communities if there are open communication lines. And the significance of local energy action in the national picture depends critically on how quickly and effectively ideas from one community can be imitated and adapted by others. A third critical social process is communication. Rather than being active seekers of useful knowledge, people and organizations are selective in attending to and assimilating information. Considerable research exists defining the ways this selection occurs. For example, people are more likely to remember and use information when it is presented attractively; when vivid, personalized examples are used; when it is specific to the user’s needs; when it comes from a person who is similar to the person receiving it; and when it is presented in familiar and understandable terms. Programs offering information about ways to save energy have not generally made use of such knowledge about communication, and using it could improve their effectiveness. Information designed for emergency use could also become more effective by incorporating what is known about successful communication principles, and especially by making two-way communication possible. Finally, beyond the characteristics of the system and the processes that affect the actors in it, it must be remembered that individuals, organizations, and political groups have energy-related values that affect their actions. We found the expression of values most explicit in the context of local energy action. Values can also be important for conservation policies and programs, because such initiatives are likely to be more effective when they are presented in terms congruent with the values of the intended clientele. Hence, it is necessary to understand the clientele of energy programs if the programs are to be effective. These characteristics of the energy system and of the key actors within it are often overlooked in policy analysis. Recognition of them leads to some new ways of thinking about energy policy: that policy problems and solutions derive not from single causes but from the complex environments or systems in which action occurs; that policy might aim at making the energy system more adaptable rather than developing specific plans; and that for energy policies to be effective, more careful attention must be paid to the process of developing programs and policies.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension Attention to Social Systems A view of energy policy problems in terms of social systems is implicit throughout this report. This view is best exemplified in three areas. Energy Information. People get information about energy from many sources: government reports and pronouncements, news stories, energy suppliers, salespeople, friends and acquaintances, personal observation, and elsewhere. A pattern of contradictory information is often likely to come from these varied sources (see Chapter 3), because the value of information often depends on unforeseeable future events and because the information sources often have sizable resources for promoting their conflicting interests and viewpoints. Even if a government effort produced the most accurate available information, it would not necessarily be believed. A central objective of any government effort regarding energy information must be to design policy and programs to allow skeptics to resolve their doubts. It is therefore important to make information for energy consumers available from personal observation, informal social networks, and other highly trusted sources. In discussing energy emergencies, much of the information normally available will prove irrelevant, and there may be no good way to know in advance what information will be needed or how best to get it. One way to deal with this situation is to keep communication channels open in an emergency, so that those who need information will be able to find it once they define what they need to know. Another approach is to build in ways that official information can be independently verified, because levels of trust in an energy emergency may be even lower than they are under normal conditions. In all these cases, the public interest is to create a situation that allows good information to be generated and located. The primary objective is for people to be well-informed, rather than for government to produce good information. Sometimes, government may be in the best position to generate the information because it has both the resources and a concern for the public interest, but, even then, government may not be best for distributing the information. In other instances, as with energy-use feedback systems, the objective is for people to generate their own information because it is more meaningful and credible. Here, the government role might be limited to research on feedback devices or methods of making the information clear. Emergency Response. Contingency plans for energy emergencies are likely to remain unused for many reasons: the emergency that occurs may not be one that was planned for; the responsible officials may think that the situation is different enough so that the plans should be disregarded; or the officials in charge when the emergency occurs may not have been
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension involved in planning and may not learn that a plan exists or find the time to study it (see Chapter 6). Rather than developing detailed plans, therefore, it often makes sense to design institutional systems that can respond effectively to a variety of conceivable emergency situations. One suggestion for system design is to make emergency preparedness a continuing process, so that many people are involved in planning, get practice communicating with those they would need to interact with in an emergency, and gain a sense of competence in dealing with emergencies. All these outcomes should be useful for a wide range of emergency situations. Local Energy Action. Local energy action is both a social and political process in individual communities and a national phenomenon. Local action does not arise only from within communities; it is also influenced by ideas that come from outside by a process of social diffusion. In that sense, local actions are influenced by a national communication system consisting of individuals, organizations, publications, and so forth. If it is national policy to encourage local initiatives in solving energy problems, there are many ways to do it. In addition to the more traditional strategies of offering funds and mandating actions, the federal government could support the communication system by holding conferences or assisting particular groups that transmit energy ideas among communities. Such communication may have been a major effect of past federal activities in conservation and solar energy, but it has never been a central concern of policy. While we offer several system-oriented policy suggestions, we are not confident that each will be the best approach possible. What is important at present is that some new and promising policy ideas can come from thinking about energy problems as the problems of social systems. In a world in which the limits of control by the central government are becoming increasingly apparent, the suggestions that arise from such a perspective may be especially attractive. Adaptability as an Alternative to Planning At several points in the discussion of energy emergencies (Chapter 6), we argue that it is important to make the energy system more adaptable so that sudden changes in energy supplies will be less likely to create crises. The goal of adaptability has implications not only for emergency preparedness, but also for energy policy under ordinary conditions. Adaptability as Part of Emergency Preparedness. A high priority in policy for energy emergencies is maintaining lines of communication so that decision makers have quick access to whatever information they might
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension need and so that coordinated responses can be developed even for unanticipated problems. We propose that government may need to assure the public that essential needs would be met before certain policy options can be credible. An example of this would be letting price increases allocate fuel in an acute shortage only after ensuring that the basic needs of individuals and communities would be met. We also discuss prevention strategies that would transform parts of the energy system so that a sudden shortage of any single energy source would be less of a problem. These strategies might include broadening the range of fuels used for essential purposes, increasing capabilities for fuel-switching, stockpiling mass transit capability, and encouraging structural change in patterns of building development to decrease the need for fuel for essential travel, such as between home and work. All these approaches emphasize making the energy system adaptable, so that it can find effective responses when needed, rather than devising plans in advance for situations that cannot be precisely foreseen. Increasing adaptability is a useful strategy for several reasons. First, plans for energy emergencies are often unused when an emergency arises. Second, the existence of several decision options makes it more likely that an appropriate one will be available. Third, because the effects of an emergency are more evident to decentralized actors than to central authorities, it is usually adaptive to decentralize many decisions in a crisis. It must be emphasized, of course, that local authorities need sufficient resources if they are to exercise responsibilities effectively. Adaptability as a General Policy Strategy. The need for adaptability in energy emergencies has implications for energy policy during nonemergency times. For example, the ability of an energy system to adapt to acute shortage depends in part on its ability to curtail demand quickly, which, in turn, depends on the preexisting pattern of energy use. Different ways of cutting demand in response to nonemergency price increases have different implications for adaptability. In residences, saving energy by curtailment of heating and cooling takes away much of the “slack” that residents have for quick response in an emergency. Saving the same amount of energy by upgrading a furnace or insulating an attic leaves the resident with more capability for quick response. Similarly, gasoline saved by decreasing travel or by ride sharing takes up more of the slack than the same savings achieved by driving one’s usual mileage in a more fuel-efficient automobile. Policy regarding energy use and conservation affects adaptability in emergencies; conservation policies that promote energy efficiency may increase adaptability, while those that result in curtailment of amenities can decrease it. Thus far most of the energy savings achieved in the residential sector in response to price increases have come from temperature setbacks and other curtailments, rather than from increased energy effi-
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension ciency in building shells, furnaces, appliances, and so forth (see Chapter 4). Hence, a more vigorous effort for residential energy efficiency, rather than an emphasis on “conservation” defined as unspecified energy savings, might be a positive contribution to emergency preparedness. Adaptability also implies that diversifying the national energy production and distribution system would help prevent emergencies. To the extent that communities, regions, and the nation depend on a broader range of fuels, they are less vulnerable to a disruption in the supply of any one. To the extent that distribution systems for oil, electricity, natural gas, and renewable energy supplies are decentralized, single accidents or hostile acts will have less effect on the entire system. Thus, certain political and economic decisions about the structure of energy production will have significant impact on the society’s adaptability in the face of problems in the energy supply system. For a national policy that emphasizes adaptability, certain kinds of local energy management are relevant. For example, development of locally available energy sources tends to broaden the national mix of energy supplies, therefore increasing adaptability. In the long run, local zoning policy can increase adaptability by making urban life less vehicle-dependent. And the knowledge and experience that come from local energy activity may leave local decision makers better skilled and better informed when the time comes for them to make quick responses under stress. If the national strategy for energy emergencies stresses adaptability, the federal government may have an interest in encouraging some types of local energy activities. Broader Implications of Adaptability. Increased adaptability implies increased control by local rather than central decision makers, and it implies a focus on energy efficiency rather than unspecified energy conservation. In these respects, the idea of adaptability relates to several of the themes that have recurred in our study, and to a central policy debate of the 1980s. The argument for adaptability in emergencies essentially derives from a recognition of diversity in the energy system and a realization that in times of rapid change, and especially in an acute supply shortage, central authorities are in a poor position to assess diverse local conditions and meet local needs. In short, the argument for adaptability draws on the themes of diversity and uncertainty. It is also related to the themes of trust and control. Plans for emergencies that allow local decision makers to check on the information they get and to make their own decisions would certainly increase local control, and might also increase people’s trust in the information and advice they are offered. Adaptability, with its connotations of local self-determination, seems an attractive idea for the 1980s, given the recent history of energy policy.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension In the mid-1970s, changing world events brought about general agreement in the U.S. that an expanded federal role in energy decision making was needed. Though consensus was lacking on the goals of national policy, it was agreed more incentives were needed for energy conservation and production. The federal government moved into energy policy, as it had expanded into other policy arenas in the previous decades. But as with other areas of policy, tight federal control of local activities sometimes led to widespread disenchantment with federal policy. Probably the worst instance was the 1979 gasoline shortage, when federal allocation plans were accused of making matters worse. There was the sense that private, state, or local decisions might have been more effective and more appropriate than federal control. In this context, the connection of local control to the adaptability of the national energy system feeds into recent calls from across the political spectrum for more local control and for less outside interference. While local control seems desirable as an ideal, we do not wish to make a general endorsement of an unspecified principle of local control: the ability of local groups to manage energy remains largely unknown (see Chapter 7). Also, there may be fairly serious limits to the range of energy options local groups can pursue, especially in the absence of sources of outside expertise, money, and ideas. More experience making local energy management work is needed before major responsibility for energy adaptability can be delegated to local institutions. To increase the adaptability of the national energy system by emphasizing local control requires the development of new relationships between the federal and local levels. It may be useful for national policy makers to think of themselves as facilitating the operation of somewhat self-regulating social systems, rather than as planning or controlling energy activities throughout the nation. The notion of federal support for systems of communication among localities is one of several examples of such thinking. It may also be useful to think of policies embodying new federal/local relationships as experimental trials in the sense that while they may not succeed at first, they may evolve through a learning process toward a relationship in which both local and national levels contribute, with net benefits both for local control and national flexibility. If this happens, effective partnerships will evolve through a political process in which both local and national interests are represented. Experimentation: Finding Out What Works Many of the conclusions reached in this report are rather general, at least compared with what is needed to draft a detailed piece of legislation or a government regulation. This may be frustrating to a reader wishing to develop or modify specific programs based on some of the ideas in this
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension book. We have refrained from being more specific more often because while we have confidence in the principles outlined here, we do not yet know what will work in particular situations. We believe it is usually not too difficult to find out what works, but that it is prudent not to overstep our knowledge. This section describes our perspective on the process of developing effective energy policies and programs. All new government policies and programs are, in effect, experiments. To treat new policies as anything more than experimental is to set the public up for disappointment, for few policies turn out exactly as expected. Well-meaning efforts by government and industry to make things better often produce unexpected effects—and sometimes these effects are so undesirable that many people feel they would have been better off if no effort had been made. We do not believe, however, that the solution is to do nothing, because it is impossible to do nothing. If government were to discontinue its efforts to improve housing or education, for example, housing and education would continue, but differently. Government retrenchments are experiments, too. And because of the complexity of society, it is difficult to foresee the results. In some areas of energy policy, the experimental nature of innovations is recognized. For example, decision makers would not dream of introducing a new energy technology without careful laboratory and field testing. There are fairly well-established procedures for this process of research, development, and demonstration. Basic research is done on the physical, chemical, biological, or other processes involved, and a prototype is built, tested, and carefully observed. If the technology still appears promising, large or mass-producible prototypes are constructed, and then a production process of commercial size is tested. Eventually, after this exhaustive testing, the technology is observed under naturalistic conditions, and it goes into commercial operation. During all stages, careful measurements of energy transfers, inputs, effluents, and costs are made, so that decisions about technical and economic feasibility can be based on accurate knowledge about the performance of the technology under increasingly realistic conditions. This careful procedure contrasts sharply with the usual method of introducing conservation and information programs, tax credits, price decontrol, and other energy policies. Such social and economic policies are usually established by legislation or administrative decision and most often are implemented in toto and at once, with minimal or no observational knowledge of how the policies may actually work. On those few occasions when field testing is done, the quality of evaluation is poor, leaving open as many questions as it answers about how or whether the policy will be effective (e.g., General Accounting Office, 1981). From our perspective, this practice amounts to a policy of experimentation on human populations with insufficiently tested techniques. Worse, the practice occurs in spite
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension of the existence of a variety of methods for finding out what works that are both effective and respectful of the interests of participants. In medical policy, for example, there are procedures for introducing new drugs that specify laboratory trials in vitro and in animals before human trials begin. Only if a drug is promising is it tried on small groups of carefully selected human subjects. Society has created procedures of peer review and informed consent to protect the interests of human subjects, and it has devised regulatory procedures to block ineffective products from reaching the market. Effective methods for conducting field trials also have been developed for programs or policies for which animal research is impossible. There is a vast literature on methods of evaluating the effects of programs in the field (e.g., Campbell and Stanley, 1971), which we will not attempt to summarize here. Often, these methods involve statistical matching of population or individual characteristics. More complete scientific control can be achieved by randomly assigning participants either to the program being tested or to a group that will be exposed to the program at a later date, a “waiting-list control.” This is done so that the effects of the program can be disentangled from those of unrelated events that may occur during the research. The best scientific procedure, of course, is controlled experimentation, in which participants are randomly assigned to a range of program alternatives simultaneously and in which they may be monitored before, during, and after exposure to the program. While it sometimes seems impractical or unethical to expose human populations to such a procedure, it has occasionally been done with success and without raising any serious objections. Such a procedure requires that both scientific and ethical issues be approached carefully. An example is the Wisconsin time-of-use electricity pricing experiment (Black, 1979). The researchers were reluctant to use only volunteer participants because the study might attract only those households that already used most of their electricity in off-peak periods and that would automatically benefit from the experimental rates. The behavior of such experimental subjects would have led to incorrect interpretations about how people, in general, would respond. But there was an ethical problem with simply assigning customers to the new rates: the experiment would increase electric bills for some of them. A “hold-harmless” procedure, in which the rate structure would be set low enough to prevent that outcome, was considered an unrealistic test and was rejected. The researchers’ solution was to convene random samples of people to act as juries on the question of what rates would be fair to the participants in the field trial. The juries agreed that it would be fair to set rates so that the average consumer would experience no change in bills if peak electricity use remained unchanged. While this meant that participants who normally
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension used a higher-than-average proportion of their electricity in peak periods would have to pay higher bills unless they shifted electricity use to off-peak hours, the juries considered this fair. When the rates were explained to the participants, they also considered them fair. As this example shows, with ingenuity, it is often possible to use field trials to gather strong evidence about the effectiveness of programs, while avoiding serious ethical problems. It is possible to devise procedures analogous to those used in medicine to test new program ideas first in tightly controlled small trials involving only scores or hundreds of participants. Statistical techniques can give a rough determination of a program’s effectiveness on the population from which those participants come. If the program looks promising, it can then—or simultaneously—be tested in other small field trials on different populations, to see if the program works equally well under diverse conditions. With the knowledge gained from these trials, decisions can be made about how or whether to proceed to more extensive trials or to actual policy implementation. This sort of procedure may seem expensive and time consuming. But while field trials do take time, they are often less expensive than survey research projects, which are limited because they can either only gather people’s reactions to hypothetical policies or be used after a policy has been widely implemented. And the costs of not conducting field trials can be enormous. Probably the clearest recent example, although not in the area of energy, is the introduction of the Susan B.Anthony dollar. Even very limited testing of prototypes in field settings—with cashiers, in vending machines, at toll booths, and so on—would quickly have established the need to redesign the coin. Even simulation experiments in settings created to imitate real situations might have been sufficient. Instead, the unacceptable coin was introduced nationwide at great expense, and it will now probably be many years before a new dollar coin is introduced, even though inflation and the short stressful life of paper currency may make it more and more imperative that dollar coins enter circulation. A similar failure of government to pretest new policies and programs characterizes the energy field. For example, federal and state conservation and solar tax credits were introduced—without field testing—to encourage investments that would otherwise not have been made. However, it was also possible, as some analysts argued, that the credits would merely provide a windfall for people who would have invested anyway (e.g., Rodberg and Schachter, 1980). If the tax credits mainly-produce a windfall, the “experiment” will have failed and will have been very costly for taxpayers. For all the above reasons, new policies should be recognized as experimental, and the best appropriate research methods should be used in field trials of new policies and programs before they are generally introduced. Given the diversity in the energy system, it will usually be important for several field trials to be conducted, to learn what happens under a variety
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension New Roles for Major Social Institutions It is important to realize that an emphasis on adaptable social systems suggests different roles for the federal government than those it has normally played. It also suggests different and often new roles for local institutions and for the scientific community. The federal government has had several roles in energy policy: it has been a source of money, it has conducted technological research, it has attempted direct control of activities through regulation, it has collected and distributed information, and, more recently, it has backed away from many of these activities. In all these roles, the federal government either asserts control—through the use of regulations or categorical grant procedures, for example—or relinquishes control, sometimes providing resources to other institutions, sometimes not. But other roles are possible, such as those that facilitate action by other institutions: helping localities learn from each other, maintaining communications between local officials so they will be able to interact effectively in an emergency, and so forth. The federal government can serve a linking function in an energy system characterized by decentralized control. This approach offers an alternative to the stereotyped debate over whether it is better to have more or less federal involvement. Of course, this concept of the federal role needs further debate and analysis. While we suggest that a linking role is sometimes appropriate, we have not addressed the question of when this role is more or less appropriate than the traditional federal roles. Neither have we considered in detail what, specifically, federal agencies would do in a linking role. Increased decision-making power for local groups implies an increased local need for resources and expertise. But what resources and expertise? And where would they come from? We have not explored these questions. Nevertheless, because of the obvious need in the society to consider new definitions of the federal role, we offer for debate and investigation the idea that the federal government can sometimes facilitate local control, rather than either taking control itself or leaving localities essentially on their own to solve their problems. Our analysis of the energy system and energy policies also implies new roles for the scientific community. Under the approach we have suggested, scientific methods are used to help those involved in a new policy or program learn from their experiences. For scientists, this approach implies closer attention to social processes, rather than evaluation of outcomes. It also implies a willingness of field researchers to trade some degree of experimental control for an understanding more relevant to constantly changing social institutions and to trade some control over defining the question to be studied for an understanding more useful and acceptable to the relevant publics.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension These alternative roles for the federal government, local institutions, and scientists will only come into being if the political process determines that an energy system relying more on adaptability is desirable. We realize that there are values and interests on both sides of that issue. For example, depending on the situation, there are various interests served by central planning. Also, interests that benefit from a narrow commodity definition of energy may see the market as an adequate institution for promoting adaptation—which it is, within limits. But as we noted in Chapter 2, the market allows adaptation as a function of an actor’s market power. For financially strapped municipalities, for future generations, for the poor, and for preventing major energy emergencies, considerations of market efficiency alone do not necessarily produce the best results for the entire economy and society. Some notions of adaptability require public action in addition to the workings of the market. In short, decisions about the roles of the federal government, the market, and other institutions in energy policy are ultimately political decisions. Our discussion of a possible federal role in facilitating adaptation adds an alternative to the list for public consideration. This approach may also be useful in other areas in which the government, as in energy policy, operates with serious limitations on its ability to control. Increasing control, designing and modifying social systems, and using scientific methods as an aid to social learning may be relevant to other policy problems that, like energy, are characterized by diversity, uncertainty, and mistrust. Such policy issues seem almost ubiquitous in the 1980s, but the relation of the general concepts discussed here to nonenergy issues is the subject for other investigations. RECOMMENDATIONS Our analysis of some major issues in energy policy has produced some new ways of thinking about the problems that have broad policy implications. It is not always obvious, however, how to translate principles into specific policies or programs. It is also not always clear whether the needed action should come from public or private sectors. Here, we offer specific recommendations that we can support with confidence. More detail and research support for these recommendations can be found in previous chapters. Conservation Programs Government, utilities, and other operators of conservation programs should apply the best existing knowledge of communication processes in presenting information to energy users. Currently, in the design of utility
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension bills, fuel economy mileage guides, energy efficiency labels, and other forms of conservation information, government and utilities implicitly and incorrectly assume that energy users will automatically notice and understand any information that is available. Instead, the presentation of all conservation-oriented communications must pay careful attention to format, timing, clarity, vividness, framing of information, characteristics of the information source, and other important factors (see Chapter 4 and, with regard to organizations, see Chapter 5). Programs that use energy auditors, extension agents, “house doctors,” or other outreach workers should train these personnel in communication skills. General communication skills—involving paying attention to one’s audience, answering questions, and so forth—are easily overlooked in programs that emphasize energy savings through technical improvements, because it is possible to think that the best thing for the energy user to do is to leave the technology alone. In fact, the communicator’s skills may influence the adoption of energy-efficient technology, the energy user’s future adoption decisions, and those behaviors that affect how efficiently the technology performs. Outreach workers should also be trained in skills specific to the communications they deliver: vivid methods of presentation; effective ways of framing decisions; understandable units of analysis; and so forth. Programs that emphasize energy information should distribute it through sources that are trusted by the intended audience. Because of the diversity of energy users, very little information is universally applicable. Furthermore, energy users justifiably mistrust many information sources. It is necessary to match information to the energy users for whom it is relevant and useful and to find credible information sources for different groups of energy users. Information for industrial groups is likely to be more effective if it comes from trade or professional associations or specialized trade journals. Within organizations, information will be more effective if it comes from highly placed sources. Information for local officials may have more impact if it comes through their associations or is delivered at their conventions. Information for households may be more effective if the market is segmented to offer information to different groups through different sources: consumer publications for some; community and church groups for others; and so forth. Energy information and building retrofit programs, such as the Residential Conservation Service, should continue to stress consumer protection features. Such features include strict standards for materials, independent and regular inspection of services, independent mechanisms for handling conflict, and certification of service providers. The available research in-
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension dicates that fear of inaccurate information or incompetent installation is a significant barrier to residential investments in energy efficiency and that effective assurances of consumer protection can greatly increase levels of investment. Energy audit information should be delivered in person. Personal contact increases attention, and more effective communication is possible in person. We believe that the 1982 federal decision to eliminate the requirement of in-person communication from the regulations for the Residential Conservation Service was ill-advised. It seems certain that some programs will no longer present audit information in person and, consequently, that consumers will probably take less action on valuable recommendations from energy audits. On-site energy audits and similar outreach programs should give energy users personal experience in making their energy systems more efficient. Such experience creates a behavioral commitment that makes further action more likely and increases energy users’ knowledge of and control over their energy systems. Experiments should be continued with systems that provide incentives for purveyors of energy information and services to offer safe and effective information and thorough work. One example is the approach being tried in New Jersey in which an organization that offers energy audits is paid only for the energy saved. The general principle of built-in incentives is applicable in many areas. For example, in buildings, inspection requirements create incentives for careful work by insulation contractors; in locally managed energy programs, the activity’s visibility to its clients provides a built-in incentive, because community members can withhold funds, votes, or participation. Conservation Policies Federal or private agencies should develop simple, understandable indices of energy efficiency, comparable to miles-per-gallon, for appliances, furnaces, and building shells. Because of the history of increasing energy invisibility (see Chapter 3), energy is not easily understandable to most people. Often the most accurate units of measure, such as therms-per-degree-day, have little intuitive meaning. Simple indices can attract energy users’ attention and can also be useful guides for action, especially if they can be verified against users’ experiences. There have been some federal efforts in this direction, which are commendable. Controlled experimentation with alternative indices is probably the best way to determine their effectiveness and usefulness.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension Labeling, rating, and certification programs should be supported to ensure that indices of energy efficiency come into common use. More energy efficiency is purchased when simple indices become easily available. There have already been some commendable federal and private initiatives toward labeling appliances and vehicles and rating or certifying buildings for energy efficiency. Some uniform system of measurement and some uniform labeling format should exist for each class of goods being certified or labeled. The question of whether such standards should be developed by the federal government or some other source hinges on credibility (see Chapter 4). The decision on whether labeling or certification of energy efficiency should be voluntary or mandatory depends on the extent to which energy-efficient decisions are considered to be a public interest. Past experience indicates that private interest has only occasionally led to certification programs. Public agencies and private firms should develop better ways to give energy users feedback. Techniques should include monitoring devices for use in buildings and vehicles and more informative utility bills. Feedback is necessary because energy flows are generally invisible to energy users; the effects of efforts to cut energy use are also very difficult to judge (see Chapter 3). Feedback provides information that is specific to an energy user’s situation, and it makes that information highly credible. Research should be expanded to identify understandable measurement units for feedback. When the units are for residential energy users, the research should be done by the public sector, because it offers some benefits to the general public and because the cost of identifying appropriate units cannot be recovered by individual manufacturers that might do the research. For defining understandable units of energy use for organizational energy consumers, the research might appropriately be done by large organizations or their trade associations. Research should also proceed on attractive feedback displays; this work seems appropriate for the private sector, as it can be incorporated into equipment designs that can compete with each other. Feedback equipment should be demonstrated and tested in pilot projects, supported by public or private funds. More informative utility billing systems should be field tested and considered by regulatory agencies as possible requirements. Government or business groups should collect and disseminate highly condensed summaries of energy conservation efforts by organizations, including benefit-cost analyses. Because attention is a scarce resource for organizational decision makers, brevity is important. And because decision makers understand and value benefit-cost analysis, it may be a particularly effective form of communication. The summaries should be disseminated by sources that get the audience’s attention and are seen as credible, such
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension as trade associations. Success stories from the leading organizations in a field should be especially convincing. Trade and professional associations should establish or expand regular networks within which organizational representatives concerned with energy can interact. Such networks should include people whose professions partly concern energy, such as architects, engineers, building managers, and so forth, and also associations in which only some members may take an interest in energy, such as groups of municipal officials, planners, mortgage lenders, industry representatives, and scientists. These networks might take the form of subgroups within an association, but the specifics are less important than the goal of establishing and maintaining communication networks so that good, new ideas and innovative practices can spread. Government or other actors should provide energy information in disaggregated fashion for diverse users. Energy information is not equally relevant or even accurate for all potential uses and users. For energy-efficient improvements for building shells, for example, only disaggregated data can become credible. Data should be gathered from occupied buildings, rather than relying primarily on engineering models. When energy-using products are highly standardized, as with automobiles and appliances, information-gathering can be centralized. The professionalism and independence of federal statistical collection and reporting systems should be protected. These systems represent valuable sources of credible energy information. Several national statistical services have established their credibility in years of service to experts and the public (see Chapter 3). Furthermore, federal agencies are in the best position to collect information that is comparable across regions. Because of the diverse needs and situations of energy users, both under ordinary conditions and in emergencies, it is important that credible information about energy users continue to be collected; that data be collected at a disaggregate level; and that this process be standardized and overseen by a centralized agent. Policies that undermine the effectiveness or integrity of credible federal statistical agencies make it harder to achieve credibility, which will be especially critical in the event of energy emergency. On a trial basis, government and private foundations should provide financial support for local consumer groups and other organizations that will gather and exchange information on consumers’ experiences with local purveyors of energy-saving equipment and services. Such organizations, similar in purpose to Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, could enable people to check the quality of services provided at the
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension local level, where national consumer organizations cannot be very helpful. Such organizations, once they establish their credibility by giving useful energy information, could later become self-supporting by monitoring other local consumer services, such as home remodeling and appliance and automobile repair. Organizational Factors in Energy Use To improve energy efficiency, private organizations and government agencies should build energy concern into organizational action by employing routines such as separate budgeting of energy costs and life-cycle accounting for energy-related capital investments. To produce long-lasting change in energy-using practices, private organizations and local energy programs should entrust to an organizational subunit that has a permanent place the responsibility for monitoring and maintaining the changes. Preferably, this subunit should be highly placed in the organization. Changed practices are more persistent when they are institutionalized. Experiments should be conducted to negotiate agreements to share the costs and benefits of energy efficiency investments between building owners and occupants, especially in multifamily housing. Because such arrangements may not transfer easily, we recommend that pilot projects involve interested parties outside the particular building, such as consumer groups or business associations. Their involvement may help spread the word of a successful agreement and also commit the interested observers to trying to adapt it to other situations. Energy Emergencies The federal government should develop an organizational structure for energy emergency preparedness that is broadly based, related to a wide variety of possible contingencies, and well suited to provide continuity for the long term. This structure should be linked with complementary structures at the regional and local levels. Because the possible energy emergencies are varied and their local effects very diverse, it is virtually impossible to develop contingency plans for the specific conditions that will arise. Policy for preparedness should emphasize improving the ability of social systems to respond to diverse and even unanticipated emergency conditions.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension By means of such mechanisms as exercises and emergency planning efforts, the federal government should use its energy emergency preparedness programs to alert key people to potential problems and to train them in certain aspects of crisis behavior, such as the use of emergency communication systems. People are more likely to act on the basis of personal knowledge than on information contained in documents. Since the nature of an emergency will probably be a surprise, it is more important that key actors be familiar with procedures of general utility than with specific actions useful only in a certain type of crisis. Energy emergency preparedness programs should be concerned with post-emergency recovery as well as with crisis management, because recovering effectively from one emergency may be essential in preparing for another. The federal government should assure that key parties in the United States can communicate with each other quickly in the event of an energy emergency. Communication is the most effective way for coping with the diversity and uncertainty of emergency situations; it is also necessary for checking the accuracy of available information and for spreading knowledge of effective ways for coping with the crisis. The starting point is such basic matters as lists of key personnel, both public and private, and notes on how they can be contacted in a hurry, but it is also necessary to provide alternate means of communication in case the normal system is congested or interrupted. The federal government should carefully consider what kinds of information can be “stockpiled” ahead of time for an emergency. For instance, most kinds of detailed information will become obsolete quickly, but prepackaged news releases and television spots that provide examples of coping strategies (for example, travel options if petroleum products are very scarce) could be very useful. The federal government should investigate how to design a public information program that is credible to a broad cross-section of society. Such a program would need to include ways to respond to public concerns and, in some cases, it might need to provide mechanisms for verifying the information provided. The federal government should identify conflicts that might be caused by state and local actions in an emergency, including possible conflicts between net producer and net consumer states, and seek to resolve important issues before an emergency occurs.
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension As part of the effort to prepare for emergencies, the federal government should support research: to ascertain the potential roles of social groups and relationships in a decentralized approach to emergency preparedness, together with options to enhance their potential; to learn more about the importance of such factors as leadership, group norms, and media attention in maintaining public support for emergency preparedness; to identify the critical needs that would have to be met in an energy emergency and alternatives for meeting them; and to identify the types of information needed during an energy emergency, the best sources for providing that information under emergency conditions, and the likelihood that those needs will be met without federal government initiatives. Local Energy Actions The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should sponsor research to evaluate the success or failure of existing local energy activities. Such research is necessary to judge the potential of local energy activities to make the national energy system more flexible and resilient and to address the problems caused for energy policy by the diversity of local conditions, the widespread mistrust of energy information and institutions, and the expressed need of people for increased control over their destinies. Evaluation research should define success and failure broadly because of the close ties energy activities have to other local issues and because the purpose of the research is to aid societal learning rather than simply to pass judgment on a program or policy. Because the impetus for many local energy actions has come from the redistributional possibilities believed to exist in such actions, the research should explicitly examine the distribution of effort and of benefit from energy programs among major groups in the communities involved. The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should sponsor research aimed at understanding the processes by which local energy activities begin, succeed, fail, or become transformed. Such a research program should look broadly at the antecedents and effects of local energy activities. Results would be useful to local groups and for informing national policy. The federal government, private foundations, or other interested parties should develop and sponsor mechanisms by which localities can learn from
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Energy Use: The Human Dimension each other’s experiences with local energy action. Such mechanisms include holding conferences, making research expertise available to localities to assess their own activities, and supporting travel and communication among local energy officials, among others. These mechanisms are needed to facilitate the spread of effective local innovations to other localities.
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