It’s that special time of year again. No, not baseball playoffs. No, not daylight savings. It’s Energy Awareness Month!
Maybe you missed it last year. We didn’t -- but we almost did, because after all, it’s not very well promoted and it is incredibly boring. In 2011, the theme is ‘Turn Words into Action; Turn Action into Results’ -- but really, it’s a time to reflect on how little Americans are aware of their own energy use or how to effectively make changes to it. (As a side note, if there is a semicolon in your tagline, it probably isn’t catchy enough to compel people to act.)
Consider a figure from a recent survey of 1,007 Americans conducted by Harris Interactive. More than 60 percent of respondents were unaware of any current tax rebates or incentives for energy efficiency upgrades in their area.
Misinformation abounds around energy for the average American. Only about half of the people in the survey named air conditioners or heating systems as the number-one energy user in the average home.
Other surveys of smart grid topics find similar issues. People have no clue about how to save energy or where to go for accurate information. Furthermore, they don’t have the desire to dig around for information about rebates and incentives, and most Americans don’t have the money or inclination to pay upfront for upgrades, even if the payback would come in two years. A favorite figure from Accenture that is thrown around at smart grid conferences is that the average American spends only six minutes a year studying their electric bill.
The survey from Harris Interactive also shows that most people aren't interested in monitoring or adjusting their thermostat from a smartphone. However, if you posed the question differently (and if the survey wasn't conducted using landlines), you might get a different response.
The average American, as noted last year, is also not thinking about their bill during one of the mildest months of the year. The program, which is picked up piecemeal by utilities, is mostly an in-house national government program. And even there it lacks oomph. Oh sure, there’s a calendar with meetings between different agencies to talk about energy efficiency, but there’s no clear agenda. The most prominent message: Turn off the lights.
The money spent printing up posters for federal buildings telling staffers to turn off the lights when they leave the room would be better spent on information for government agencies on how to educate Americans about available energy efficient incentives by teaming up with big-box stores, the MLB or schools.
On a marketing note, October is one of the busiest “special months.” Breast Cancer Awareness, with its pink everything, dominates during October. It’s also Hispanic Heritage Month through October 15. Spinach Lovers, Car Care, Bat Appreciation, Long-Term Care Planning, Raptors, Positive Attitudes, Eat Country Ham and Sarcastics Awareness are just a few of the other issues that are highlighted this month.
So besides turning off the lights this fall, the government might want to consider ditching the initiative altogether or finding it a home on the calendar that would allow it to really entice Americans to consider all they can do to slash their energy costs. A partnership with a major sports league wouldn’t hurt, either.