07.04.2015 Opinion

Achieving Energy Efficiency through Consumer Behavioral Change

By Lambert Vimariba
Achieving Energy Efficiency through Consumer Behavioral Change
07.04.2015 LISTEN

Ghana's energy crisis has deteriorated in recent times, hitting businesses hard, with authorities blaming the situation on low water levels in the Akosombo Dam and lack of gas to power the country's thermal plants. Industries are laying-off workers, domestic power consumers are complaining of destruction of household appliances, while cold store operators are grouchy over their rotten fish and meat products due to persistent erratic power supply. Latest research by Data Bank, one of Ghana's leading financial providers, suggests the country is likely to lose up to $1.4 billion by the end of the year if the situation does not improve soon. Also recent reports from the industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), suggests that some workers of coca cola Ghana, fan milk, Cadbury Ghana and other companies have fallen victims to this crisis as part companies retrenchment plans due to the worsening power crisis, having a toll on Industries and businesses. The path to a sustainable energy system for the future lies in two broad segments. The first is technology advancements and the second is conserving energy. With the current scenario, most energy efficiency measures yet to be implemented in Ghana involve technological interventions, but this will equally have to rely on people adjusting their energy consumption behavior.

There is a huge scope of energy conservation in the domestic sector, Looking at the sector wise consumption pattern, the domestic sector accounts for 47% of the total consumption and has a saving potential of 18 – 25% (Ministry of Energy, 2010 – Energy Sector strategy and Development plan). Conservation is the first law of natural world. Inefficient use of energy results into wastage and has a negative environmental impact. The primary step towards a sustainable energy system is a thoughtful use of the existing asset. It is wildly noted that energy conserved is energy created, but now the biggest challenge is how to motivate domestic consumers to conserve energy or alter consumer's behavior towards energy conservation. Energy conservation behavior is mostly based on our beliefs, values and attitude. Hence, it is important as a country to understand the behavioral dimensions of the consumer towards energy conservation and assess the factors affecting attitude towards energy conservation. The key targeted of such initiatives should be the domestic sector with community members reinforcing positive change in social norms for energy efficiency behaviors and sharing good practice. These Community initiatives have the potential to establish ownership and responsibility for actions to improve energy efficiency, even in situations where individuals feel that their contribution is insignificant.

As country energy consumption behaviors must be a part of daily routine and habits', viz., putting on lights even when not required, leaving the television, computers on standby mode are certain complicated behaviors which are difficult to change. Conservation behaviors are significantly related to beliefs in material growth and comfort associated with it .Therefore, promotional campaigns must be developed which takes into consideration specific behaviors associated to energy consumption. Also, incentives and disincentives policies for energy conservation should be framed when considering how people's behaviors are formed and how they could be influenced.

Energy audit is an effective instrument in advancing energy efficiency in Ghana. Energy audits should be considered as part of directives on energy performance of buildings in connection to the issuance of building permits. Ghana needs to promote energy audit activities in the small and medium scale enterprise (SME) sectors and also make energy audits mandatory for large enterprises. In addition, such a directive will encourage the Power Ministry to raise awareness about the benefits of energy audits among households. Energy audits will provide detailed information on energy use and saving potential. An energy audit would normally include an evaluation of the thermal characteristics of the building, its existing infrastructure and the appliances in use. Even though an energy audit reports may not directly address behavior change. Typically, energy audits tend to focus more on measures that require investment in a specific technology. , however, a successful measure in raising awareness about energy issues is a prerequisite for changing behavior and consumption practice.

By Lambert Vimariba, USA ([email protected])