Design and diffusion of smart energy monitors for sustainable household consumption

The synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post- 2015 sustainable development agenda acknowledges that “new technologies can open up more sustainable approaches and more efficient practices” (§ 31). Contemporary research and development efforts have led to the emergence of energy measurement technologies for residential use. However, the deployment of smart energy feedback systems has been limited thus far to just a handful of countries. The following summary of “lessons learned” from energy monitoring studies provides a basis for global expansion of smart energy feedback systems.

The supply consequences of unbridled energy use on the environment have long attracted the attention of planners and policymakers whose decisions ultimately thrust consumers into a central role through household-based sustainable energy consumption policies (OECD, 2008). These policy strategies may be said to have three parts: the design of user-centered energy monitoring tools to inform household decisions; attention to social and cultural factors that influence household energy practices even with the availability of smart energy monitors; and the expansion of household-level collection of energy use patterns within the system of national accounts to permit within-country and international comparisons for sustainable consumption.

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5 thoughts on “Design and diffusion of smart energy monitors for sustainable household consumption

  1. Tom Hargreaves

    This briefing on the ‘design and diffusion of smart energy monitors for sustainable household consumption’ focuses on some vitally important insights that must be taken seriously if any ‘smart’ energy future is to be realised. Too often research and policy on ‘smart’ energy systems focuses narrowly on the design and development of ‘smart’ technologies or on convincing or persuading supposedly-rational consumers to adopt these technologies as a means of changing their energy-consuming behaviours. What this briefing, and the research it summarises, argues, is that rather than treating society and technology as separate entities, more attention should instead be paid to the inter-connections between them. It needs to be recognised that any future technological visions (whether ‘smart’ or anything else) are also and unavoidably social and political visions. These visions are often implicit and, as such, tend to be ignored or pass under the radar, but, arguably it is the nature of these social visions that will fundamentally determine the success or failure of any ‘smart’ energy future and, as such, they demand more of our attention and urgently. This briefing calls for these kinds of insights to be recognised and explicitly incorporated into future research and policy on ‘smart energy futures’ and, as such, it is something that I firmly support.

    Tom Hargreaves

  2. Merry Bullock & Howard Kurtzman

    This brief makes three cogent policy recommendations: to deploy smart energy monitoring systems; to study how to do this within varied social/cultural milieus, and to address privacy and “big data” issues at a high policy level. We support this integrated suggestion to establish sustainable energy monitoring systems that will usefully allow analysis of human/family decision making about energy consumption. It is particularly noteworthy to address consumer preferences and knowledge, as well as the translation of preferences and knowledge into consumption behavior.
    Merry Bullock, PhD (International) and Howard Kurtzman, PhD (Science) on behalf of the American Psychological Association

  3. Bengt Kriström

    The need for a more effective collaboration between various sciences that study human behavior is usefully illustrated by the case of energy. Humans, after all, make the decisions about energy use. Economists rightly stress the role of economic incentives in terms of policy tools, but in developing more effective and distributionally acceptable policies we need to study a more comprehensive set of approaches. This brief provides a step in the right direction which I fully support.

    Bengt Kriström
    Professor, Research Director (
    Lead author (residential energy demand), OECD project on household behavior and the environment.

  4. Robert A. Archer

    The proposal on “Design and diffusion of smart energy monitors for sustainable household consumption” will address a major shortcoming of smart energy technology dissemination: an imbalance between the “technology push” and the need for social/cultural research and input into dissemination strategies. The global debate on energy efficiency has been inadequate in terms of addressing the social/cultural factors affecting technology market/household penetration. The proposal identifies one of the chronic findings: the gap between modelling (or energy audits in practice) and actual household energy consumption outcomes. The proposal is clear, well-written and the references cited are sound and generally peer-reviewed. They indicate the gap is widespread but the causes less clear. I note that this important issues is particularly complex in multifamily structures. The proposal is “applied research” and not theoretical. If carried out, it will be effective in shaping donors and practitioners in their strategies and implementation programs. The proposal has a coherent three part policy development approach: strategy development; research on social/cultural factors and a forum for dissemination. Most critical is the research component which is under-emphasized in donor priorities and country programs.

    The same issue pervades the efforts to dissemination renewable energy technologies–particular solar at the household and village level. Years of demonstrations remain constrained in achieving widespread dissemination due to the lack of careful research on the social and cultural dimensions affecting energy technology change and market penetration.

    In both cases, social/cultural research and dissemination of results through a forum will enhance the likelihood of improved strategies around the world.

    Robert A. Archer
    Senior Energy Advisor
    USAID (Retired)

  5. David Stonner

    This abstract provides a good empirical basis for assessing was to reduce energy use at the individual, household, community, and national level. Ultimately, sustainability is based on human behavior. Understanding how people become aware of their own energy use patterns and how those patterns can be modified is critical to develop globally sustainable energy policies. This abstract provide an easily understood approach to using existing methodologies to build a comprehensive tool kit of policies that can be applied across boundaries and for energy consumers regardless of the technologies they use.


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