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Business 2.0, Design, Sustainability

Finding momentum towards urban energy savings

Implicit in my recent series of posts is that the structural barriers won’t or can’t be addressed. Of course, wins of this manner/magnitude can have huge flow-on effects. So working towards addressing these remains critical and important. For example, if:

  • New building stock had sustainability as a key criteria
  • Buildings had smart meters that provided timely data to residents
  • Open data became the norm for energy usage information (i.e. system interoperability, with due security measures to ensure privacy etc.) that enabled individuals to use a variety of toolsets or “migrate” their data between systems
  • Strata managers and owners’ corporations took active steps to make operations more efficient, save money, and introduce generation capacity where suitable
  • Residents are empowered to have a more active voice in moving strata managers and owners’ corporations to express their values, whether they be owners or renters

Then we would be in a much better place—literally.

However, regardless of if this is possible, it’s going to take time. And in the meantime, what can residents do? Do they just throw their arms in the air and say “I can’t do anything (meaningful)?” Or are their options that the can exercise?

I think it’s important to maintain a sense of optimism.

There are opportunities—potentially commercially lucrative ones—amongst that for products and services that leverage these principles to great effect. We’re exploring some of these opportunities more directly, but we also feel very privileged to have worked, and continue to work, with others that have a similar vision.

Embedded in the my previous posts are some cues/clues on some ways that effort might be directed to provide/activate those options. Things like:

  • Increasing the (sense of) agency/reducing barriers to action
  • Collecting and (securely, privately) exposing data across systems
  • Developing interfaces that encourage smarter consumption (in real or near-real time)
  • Incentivise behaviour (but going beyond financial ROI)

Technology will play a key role—but, as is noted elsewhere on our site, many of the challenges are not the technology itself, but considering it in the context of the human and natural systems surrounding them. Behavioural economics, ideas of natural capitalism, Cradle to Cradle, and Biomimicry, psychology and the principles of behaviour change are critical. As Yolande Strengers’ argues, sometimes the best solution is to slow down and reconsider our practices more generally.

In other words, to not just forge ahead and think that technology, alone, is the solution.

Human-centred design thinking provide useful tools to get there, that respond to what we know about complexity, can (and we argue should) be an important contributor to our response to these challenges.

We’re excited by these opportunities, and to be part of the broader movement exploring, probing and working towards new ways of viewing energy in urban environments.

Feature image credit.