On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Vehicle Electrification Group, tells us when electric vehicles provide the most benefit for consumers.

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Electric Vehicle Adoption Potential in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Costs and Benefits of Electric Vehicles in the United States [video]- Carnegie Mellon Department of Engineering and Public Policy


Transcript

HOST: Have you ever thought of purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle? Are these vehicles the right choice for you? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jeremy Michalek, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles are quiet and cheaper to refuel with no tailpipe emissions, and they can be fun to drive.

But electric vehicles may not be the right choice for everyone. They tend to be more expensive to purchase, have shorter driving range, and take longer to refuel than traditional vehicles. And you’ll need the space and the right to install a home charger if you want to charge the vehicle every night.

HOST: There’s more to that than I would have thought. When are electric vehicles a good choice?

MICHALEK: Plug-in electric vehicles offer the biggest benefits in stop-and-go driving conditions, but they lose range in extreme weather, and their environmental benefits depend on how clean the electricity grid is. So city drivers in mild-climate regions with a clean electricity grid, like San Francisco or Los Angeles can see the biggest benefits.

HOST: Is an electric vehicle a good option for you? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, tells us how our social networks can affect how we invest in energy.

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The Role of Community and Social Networking from Penn State University.

Schubert R and Stadelmann M (2015) Energy-using durables – why consumers refrain from economically optimal choicesFront. Energy Res. 3:7. doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2015.00007l


Transcript

HOST: How can social networks affect consumer or business energy investment decisions? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, explains.

WONG-PARODI: In talking to small commercial building owners, researchers at Carnegie Mellon were surprised to find out that an important influence on energy decision-making was that owners’ “social network”. Use of a social network saves them the time necessary to find someone they trust and to understand all of the options.

HOST: What about residential consumers?

WONG-PARODI: Appliances are often bought at a time of crisis. For example, a water heater has broken down and we want to replace it right away. As a result, the decisions consumers make are based on the capital cost of that water heater – the price they pay at the time – rather than considering the long-term economic impacts that take into the account the financial savings from a more energy efficient water heater.

In addition to providing information to consumers, this research implies that it is important for installers and salespeople to have training so they can understand the short- and long-term financial implications.

HOST: Who influences your energy-related investment decisions? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the energy efficiency of our appliances’ default settings.

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Allcott, H., & Mullainathan, S. (2010). Behavioral science and energy policy. Science, 327(5970), 1204-1205.

McCalley, L. T. (2006). From motivation and cognition theories to everyday applications and back again: the case of product-integrated information and feedback. Energy policy, 34(2), 129-137.

Marc Mosko, Victoria Bellotti,  “Smart Conservation for the Lazy Consumer: People aren’t conserving energy for love or money—you have to trick them into it,” 28 Jun 2012.

James Pierce, Diane J. Schiano,1, Eric Paulos, “Home, Habits, and Energy: Examining Domestic Interactions and Energy Consumption,”Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (April 2010).

Appliances and electronics tips: Looking for ways to save money on your energy bill?” from We Energies


Transcript

HOST: Automatically using the default setting on electronics can be pretty easy. But do those settings save us the most energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

WONG-PARODI: A review at MIT and Harvard found that a lot of our default settings for appliances are not the most efficient from an energy standpoint.  For example, a study at the Technical University in the Netherlands found that removing default temperature settings from washing machines was found to reduce energy usage by 24% as users set lower washing temperatures. There is a great deal of research in this area that tells us that most people keep the default option.

HOST: What actions could be taken to change the default settings so they are more energy efficient?

WONG-PARODI: One option would be for policymakers to require or encourage appliance makers to make the default settings those that are most energy efficient.
HOST: What other options do we have?
WONG-PARODI: Some government agencies and utilities provide information on their websites as to which default setting for our appliances is the most energy efficient.
HOST: What would you prefer? That appliance makers use the most energy efficient default settings, or thatconsumers decide on their own if they want to change the default settings?  Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.
Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the types of information that can motivate the public to modify their energy use.

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Krishnamurti, T., Davis, A., Wong-Parodi, G., Canfield, C., & Wang, J. (2013). Creating an in-home display: experimental evidence and guidelines for design, Applied Energy, 108, 448-458

Delmas, M. & Lessem, N. 2014. Saving Power to Conserve your Reputation? The Effectiveness of Private versus Public Information. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. 67: 353-370

Omar I. Asensio and Magali A. Delmas, Nonprice incentives and energy conservation. PNAS 2015 112 (6) E510-E515; published ahead of print January 12, 2015,doi:10.1073/pnas.1401880112.

Chen, V., Delmas, M., & Kaiser, W.J. 2014. Real-Time, Appliance-Level Electricity Use Feedback System: How to Engage Users? Energy and Buildings. 70: 455-462.

Matt Lucas, “Want people to conserve electricity? Tell them about pollution-induced asthma.” Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative, February 24, 2015.

Transcript

HOST: You’ve heard the phrase “keeping up with the Jonses”. Can knowing how much energy my neighbor uses affect my energy use? On this week’s EnergyBite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Researchers have found that a home energy display that provides consumers with their energy use in kilowatt hours- not financial savings- was the most effective way to communicate energy information.

HOST: What other information motivates consumers to reduce energy?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: One analysis found that providing additional information to consumers such as how their energy influences human health really motivates people to reduce their energy use, especially if they have children and elderly living at home with them. Another influence is comparing their energy use to their neighbors.

HOST: When can consumer home energy use displays less effective?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Although those tested thought financial savings for reducing energy consumption for a particular appliance would be more motivating, that was not the case. This is because the cost of energy use for one device at a specific point of time is very small – say a few cents per hour – so it was not enough to influence behavior.

HOST: What display in your home, if any, would motivate you to reduce your energy consumption? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at EnergyBite.org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses how “keeping up with the Joneses” might help us modify our energy use.

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Alcott, Hunt., “Social Norms and Energy Conservation,” Journal of Public Economics 95 (2011) 1082–1095.

Belsie, Laura. “Peer Comparisons Reduce Energy Use,” National Bureau of Economic Research.

Social Comparison Theory from Psychology Today.

The EPA’s EnergyStar Home Energy Yardstick


Transcript

HOST: You’ve heard the phrase “keeping up with the Jonses”. Can knowing how much energy my neighbor uses affect my energy use? On this week’s EnergyBite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: The formal term for “keeping up with the Joneses” is social comparison. That is, we are driven to determine our personal worth by comparing ourselves with others.

HOST: How does this apply to energy?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Researchers looked at several utility’s programs that sent information to their customers comparing that customer’s electricity use to that of their neighbors. They found that consumers decreased their electricity consumption by up to 2%. Why? Because they wanted to keep up with their neighbors.

HOST: But does this work for everyone all of the time?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: No, researchers found that the reductions in energy consumption varied based on how much energy was consumed, and that there was sometimes a “boomerang” effect where people would increase their electricity consumption, even after decreasing it, if their neighbors did the same.

HOST: Would knowing more about your neighbor’s electricity consumption change your consumption of electricity? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at EnergyBite.org.

The Hawthorne Effect is a phenomena in psychology where the mere knowledge of being watched can affect someone’s behavior or performance. Today’s technology can track many aspects of our life. Does being watched change your behavior? Is the same true for electricity consumption? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

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Schwartz, D., Fischhoff, B., Krishnamurti, T., & So well, F. (2013). The Hawthorne effect and energy awareness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(38), 15242-15246
A History of the Hawthorne Effect from the Harvard Library Archives.

Transcript

HOST: With today’s technology, does it feel like you’re always being watched? Can the mere knowledge of being watched change how we use energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University has some answers.

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: The Hawthorne Effect is well-known phenomena in psychology – where the mere knowledge of being watched can affect someone’s behavior or performance.

HOST: So, how does the Hawthorne effect apply to electricity use?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Researchers sent postcards on a monthly basis to 200,000 homes telling them they were part of a study on electricity use consumption. Although the cards provided no instruction or incentive to save electricity, the consumption in those households dropped 2.7%.  Their awareness heightened just because they knew they were being watched.

HOST: Why aren’t I getting a postcard to tell me I’m part of an energy study?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Although 2.7% might seem small in terms of a reduction in electricity consumption, it is greater than most states mandate. However, once the postcards stopped, so did the reduction in energy consumption.

HOST: Would being watched change your consumption of electricity? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at energybite.org.

We use natural gas to generate electricity but we could be even more efficient. In this episode of Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Director of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and Co-Director of the Electricity Industry Center, will tell us how.

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For more information

EPA-Electricity from natural gas

U.S. Energy Information Administration: What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?

New York Power Authority: How does a combined cycle technology works?


Transcript

HOST INTRO: Have you ever wondered how natural gas is used to make electricity? On this week’s Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: We make electricity from gas using something called a gas turbine – basically, just a big modified jet engine. Today, natural gas is our second largest source of electricity. A big advantage is that when gas is burned it produces only about half as much carbon dioxide as coal.

HOST: Is there a way to make these gas turbines more energy efficient?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN:: Yes, the exhaust that comes out of the gas turbine is hot enough to make steam, and you can use that steam to run a second steam turbine. The two together are called a combined cycle turbine.

HOST: Are there any other ways to use natural gas to make electricity?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Engines of the kind that usually run on diesel fuel or gasoline can be modified to run on natural gas, and places like hospitals can use them for back-up generators. Regular engines, sterling engines, or small gas turbines can also be used for distributed generation. If the heat from such systems is captured and used, the overall efficiency can be roughly doubled.

HOST: Would you support greater use of distributed generation that uses natural gas? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

We haven’t heard much about nuclear power plants lately. Are they still being built? In this episode of Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Director of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and Co-Director of the Electricity Industry Center, will discuss the state of the nuclear power industry.

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For more information

Nuclear Plants in World

Fukushima Accident

New York Times Coverage

Plants operating in the U.S. from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

EIA (How many nuclear power plants are in the United States, and where are they located?


Transcript

HOST INTRO: We haven’t heard much about nuclear power recently. Is anyone still building nuclear power plants? On this week’s Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Today there are 438 nuclear power plants operating in 30 different countries. There are roughly 70 new ones under construction and another 184 are on order or planned. The United States has the most, about 100, China has the most under construction, more than 60 and they have plans for over 100 more.

HOST: Are we still building nuclear plants in the US?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: The US has four under construction, all in the Southeast where utilities are allowed to add the cost of the build to their electricity rates.

HOST: Have any nuclear plants in the US closed?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Yes, some are closing because they are outdated. But in parts of the country that have introduced competition in their electricity supply, there are also plants closing because they can’t compete with cheap natural gas. That’s a problem, because gas and coal plants emit carbon dioxide and nuclear plants don’t.

HOST: Would you be willing to have a new nuclear plant in your region? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

How smart are smart meters? What do they do with the data they collect? In this episode of Energy Bite we’ll learn the answers from Granger Morgan, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Director of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and Co-Director of the Electricity Industry Center.

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Transcript

HOST INTRO: We’re hearing a lot these days about “smart meters.” Just how smart are they? On this week’s Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Today most smart meters actually aren’t very smart. In the past your power company had to send a meter reader out once a month to record the numbers on your meter, so the company could send you a bill. Today smart meters automatically send those numbers directly to the company.

HOST If a meter is sending out information all the time about my electricity use, should I be worried about privacy?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Yes, privacy can be concern. So companies need to use good encryption and data protection. Many smart meters also have the ability to shut off power to a home, so if companies don’t take care, hackers could cause some real inconvenience.

HOST: To most people the word “smart” means “intelligent.” Just sending messages to the power company doesn’t sound very smart.

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Partly the use of the word smart is just hype. In the future, smart meters should be able to help you manage how you use electricity, and save you a bit of money.

When there is a shortage of power they should also be able to control big loads to reduce the risk of blackouts, without disrupting the quality of the services that you get.

HOST: Do you have a smart meter? If it saved you money would you want one? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Traffic lights go out when we lose power, causing gridlock that interferes with emergencies and evacuations. What could we do to avoid this? Granger Morgan, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Director of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and Co-Director of the Electricity Industry Center, explains how we might retain power in this episode of Energy Bite.

 

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More Information

How Stuff Works: Why are they replacing all of the traffic lights in my town?

Traffic Sunlights

California Department of Transportation/Traffic Signals and Lighting 

Wind-powered traffic lights to get tested

Solar in Action (Boston)

Boston Solar Evacuation Route


Episode Transcript

HOST INTRO: If the power goes out in a city, traffic lights stop working and traffic quickly snarls. Is there any way to avoid that?

On this week’s Energy Bite, Granger Morgan, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Snarled traffic can be a serious problem in a blackout, especially if police, fire and ambulances can’t get through. But, there is any easy way to avoid the problem – use traffic lights that have battery back up.

HOST: How does this work? Don’t traffic lights use a lot of power?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: The older style of traffic lights that used incandescent light bulbs certainly did. But today traffic lights are being switched to solid state LEDs. Those are the ones that look like they are made up of many small dots.

Because LED lights are very efficient, they can run on a battery. If a small solar panel is added at each intersection, the traffic lights can be completely independent of the power grid.

HOST: Wouldn’t that be expensive?

DR. GRANGER MORGAN: Because running an LED light costs only 10% as much as conventional lights, many communities are already converting their traffic signals and saving money. At busy intersections, adding independent battery back-up power can be a very prudent investment.

HOST: Would you be willing to support the cost of installing solar traffic lights in your town? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.