One of the unexpected fallouts of the months-long lockdown in India this year, has been the abnormally high electricity bills received by a large swathe of the Indian population. From celebrities to the common man, the issue was prevalent across the country’s socio-economic strata and underlines what India is lacking currently – a way to keep track of electricity usage in a simple, real-time and transparent manner.
Let us take a look at how homeowners can reduce energy bills through developing energy literacy and integrating smart solutions that can be easily implemented in communities across the country.
The importance of energy literacy
It is remarkable that in a price sensitive market like India, a key utility like electricity is still poorly understood. Until a mammoth bill arrives out of the blue, the average consumer hardly gives a second thought to their energy consumption. This is not an issue that is confined to India. Across the world, energy literacy has been found lacking. Even in countries such as Denmark, Portugal & New Zealand, where research* indicates that people are reasonably knowledgeable about energy issues, it has been noticed that the actual adoption of energy saving practices and solutions are still low.
The difference between energy efficiency and energy savings is also grossly misunderstood. A society could be considered being energy efficient if they make informed choices such as selecting LED lights instead of the old incandescent light bulbs with a filament of tungsten wire. On the other hand, a society can be high on its energy savings by choosing to utilize electricity sporadically, for instance, switching off the lights in the common stairwell when not in use.
From an end consumer viewpoint, there are some easy ways to reduce energy usage and improve energy efficiency. One is to regularly replace old electronic devices with new ones. Likewise, LED bulbs are a more energy efficient option. Smart solutions like motion and infrared sensors, automatic timers, etc., are gaining popularity among many residential societies. At an individual level, it is just as important to be aware of one’s energy consumption and accordingly take steps to avoid energy wastage.
How does one determine how much electricity one is consuming? Smart meters can help here by tracking usage conveniently. Unlike traditional meters, they do not need manual data collection and provide an easy way to keep an eye on energy usage. However, smart meters are just one part of the solution. To make the most of them, it is necessary to have a proper energy management system in place. This includes the smart meter and other hardware and software that allows the homeowner to not only monitor energy consumption real-time but also control usage smartly – turning devices on and off remotely, setting devices to run on a schedule, etc.
The installation of smart meters has become more popular recently and is a viable solution for housing societies and communities across the country. At Life Republic (Pune), one of the projects in which we are integrating smart solutions, these devices will play an important role so residents can control usage more effectively.
Though solutions like smart meters help make data easily accessible, understanding a lot of raw data can still fluster the average homeowner. Also, it is quite possible that the average user will not always remember to check usage data on the smart meter. This reinforces the need for providing data in a manner that is easily understood by the user and on a device of his/her choosing.
For example, users might not want to see their energy usage in kilowatts-hour as this may not really convey any meaning to them. But what if this was provided in the context of money spent with the capability to set alerts when usage has crossed a certain amount?
At Planet Smart City, we are constantly thinking of ways to improve community living through smart solutions. This is why we developed our proprietary digital platform, the Planet App, to leverage the power of IoT and provide access to all solutions in an intuitive manner. Using the app, societies and residents can easily track, analyze and manage usage of their utilities, including electricity, from their mobile phones.
As we have seen, achieving energy efficiency, whether it is in the home, building or residential society, requires a combination of various factors. Homeowners need to become energy literate and one of the best ways of achieving this is by providing them access to data that is easy to understand and readily available on a device of their choosing. The technologies are all out there, what is required is innovative thinking that harnesses the power of IoT and other digital technologies to provide end users with information which can be controlled intuitively and easily. More importantly, with savings made in energy, each household can improve their living standards as they wish: putting money aside for the future, investing in quality food, education or improving any other aspect of their lives.