With emerging technological advances and increased dependency on electronic appliances, household energy consumption levels and demand for electricity have been steadily rising. Recently, Tamilnadu recorded a peak demand of 16,151 MW during the month of April 2019. It has been highlighted that the increased demand was mainly from domestic users and that it is expected to rise continuously in the coming years. Under such circumstances, energy conservation and use of energy efficient appliances will play a major role in managing the demand and supply of electricity. The Government also introduced various schemes to promote energy efficient appliances like LED bulbs, tube lights, and fans, at subsidised prices. Apart from saving electricity, this will help consumers to cut down their electricity cost as well.
Conservation of electricity largely relies upon informed decisions to adopt behavioural changes. Conserving electricity at a household level will go a long way in reducing the gap between demand and supply in the electricity sector, for, one unit of conservation at a household level will conserve two units of power in the generation phase.
In this context, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) in partnership with Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE), launched a community-based energy conservation initiative in Chennai called Minsarathai Semippom (MS). The initiative was an extension of the successful Vidyut Rakshaka program conceptualised by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and TIDE. This initiative was supported by SGGSC (Societe Generale Global Solution Centre)
The main objective of this initiative was to educate residential consumers about (i) electricity usage (ii) energy efficiency and energy conservation (iii) bring about behavioural changes and (iv) promote renewable energy like rooftop solar, solar water heater, etc.
The focus of the initiative was to leverage on a network of communities (1 BHK, 2BHK, 3 BHK, 3 BHK and above) in and around Chennai to serve a very specific purpose – motivate households to practice conservation of electricity, use energy efficient appliances and provide suitable recommendations that could be adopted to reduce consumption and expenditure on electricity. The program further sought to study the impact following behavioural change and the use of energy efficient equipments.
Above: Students being trained as stewards
Students from institutions such as Don Bosco Technical Institute (Joe Tech), Basin Bridge, Women’s Christian College, Nungambakkam and JBAS College, Teynampet were involved as stewards to promote the initiative. They were trained on energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy like solar energy before undertaking the survey.
Above: Posters distributed to draw interest.
Stewards visited the Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) in their neighbourhood to create awareness and encourage the residents to participate in the initiative. Posters (in English and Tamil), which drew the attention of consumers towards their electricity bills, were distributed. Later, interested participants were identified and signed up for the initiative.
A survey was conducted to understand the energy consumption patterns of the households. The survey made inquiries into the number of electrical appliances in households, their usage patterns and consumers’ interest in renewable energy, among others. The participating households were also provided with neighbourhood averages that could help correct their individual usage.
Above: Stewards conducting surveys
During the sign-ups, participants were advised to follow energy conservation measures through behavioural changes. For example, switching off appliances when not in use, making use of natural light and ventilation as much as possible, etc.
One of the participants from Alwarpet area, raised a query regarding the temperature setting in an AC. From their response to the survey, we came to know that they set the temperature at 18 deg C and won’t use a fan while using AC. The stewards explained to them that each degree increase in temperature will save 3 - 5% of energy and also suggested them to increase the AC temperature above 24 degrees and use fan at a lower speed to reduce power consumption.
Further, a handbook was also given to the signed up participants to educate them about energy efficiency and energy conservation and also to promote the benefits of MS. The spread of sign-ups is given below and can also be found in the link.
Above: The spread of sign ups
The booklets were given to nudge them to become more energy efficient. After a couple of months, based on the information received through the signups, CAG collected their 24 months historical consumption, based on which individual primary reports were prepared by TIDE.
Participants were categorized into Energy savers (consumes below neighbourhood average), Energy Champions (consumes at neighbourhood average) and Future Champions (consumes above neighbourhood average) based on their average units consumed in the last billing cycle. The report informed about the comparison of their estimated asset consumption against an optimal model for their BHK category in Chennai city. This helped increase their awareness about their electricity consumption and helped them to identify their power guzzlers.
Interest in adopting energy conservation methods:
Through the course of the sign-up drive, surveying and household visits, participants could be seen developing an increased interest in adopting energy conservation methods. There were several instances where participants’ feedback reflected that household consumers are willing and motivated to make behavioural changes to conserve energy.
While handing over the primary reports in a participant’s house, it was found that they had connected their TV, set-top box, sound system and Wifi in a plug point and left on even when the appliances were not in use. The participating household was briefed about standby mode power and its consumption. After a couple of weeks, we received feedback from the participant about adopting suitable measures to avoid excess consumption.
Normalisation of energy efficient behaviour
It was observed that some of the participants had newly shifted/ occupied their houses. So, we couldn't calculate their historical consumption pattern. To strengthen this, we collected feedback from participants while distributing the primary reports. This included the staying period in the house, inclusion and exclusion of electrical appliances.
During feedback collection it was witnessed that many participants have changed their incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs and some participants who added more electrical appliances also switched to LED tube lights, star rated appliances.
With the participants' feedback, a first-follow up report was sent to all the participants which provided information about their consumption trends in comparison with their neighbourhood average and primary consumption pattern.
In a short period of time, with 650 participants, we were able to create awareness about energy conservation and efficiency. As a result, we were able to reduce the overall power consumption by about 7%. If every individual continues to conserve power we will be able to reduce the gap between demand and supply in the electricity sector. This will also help the Government to supply 24*7 electricity to all.
Consumers show increased interest in energy conservation. But, there is a strong need to increase awareness around energy conservation measures and practices.
Consumers tend to be reluctant in choosing energy efficient appliances, considering the initial investments. It is therefore crucial to (i) guide consumers in making the suitable purchase for their household and (ii) inform them about the life cycle cost of the appliances and the benefits in the long run.
Interest towards solar PV or thermal has been increasing, but there is a lack of clarity with respect to procedures involved in installing the same. Dissemination of knowledge around solar installation procedures is the need of the hour.
Schemes introduced by Government like subsidised appliances and welfare benefits are not reaching the intended beneficiaries. There is a need to ensure an increased focus on creating awareness about schemes
Overall, there is a strong need for various stakeholders such as governments, solar installers, civil society organisations to promote energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy.