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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 energyusers 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 incentivesfor purveyors of energy information and services to offer safe and effectiveinformation 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.
Federal or private agencies should develop simple, understandable indicesof 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.