Smart Conservation for the Lazy Consumer

People aren’t conserving energy for love or money—you have to trick them into it

11 min read
LG's smart refrigerators, shown here at 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

imgBrain Freeze: LG’s smart refrigerators, shown here at 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, can send an alert to your phone if you leave the door open.Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

If your electric company tells you to cut back your energy use or face the possibility of a blackout, you’ll probably comply. You’ll turn off unnecessary lights and appliances and use the air conditioner less. But the moment the crisis is averted, you’ll quickly return to your old habits. That’s because in spite of what people say about wanting to protect the environment and save money, they rarely limit their energy consumption to achieve these goals. Convenience always trumps conservation. 


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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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