Once again, the Swiss have an excellent idea. Usually known for their uber-engineered timepieces and army knives (not to mention their chocolate), the Swiss have a big idea around energy conservation. It’s called the 2,000-Watt Society, and anyone can join.
It all started back in the 1990s when a group of forward-thinking Swiss scientists and engineers posed a provocative question: What would cutting energy consumption by two-thirds mean for people’s way of living? Would it mean sacrifice and candlelight? Or could it be achieved without painful compromise?
They performed a simple calculation to determine the average amount of energy consumed by every person on the planet continuously and arrived at 2,000 watts a month, which works out to be roughly 17,500 kilowatt hours a year. (Now before you go blast off a comment about the math being wonky, I know. They know. It’s meant to be that way).
The Society’s objective is to help people make smarter energy choices over the long run – from government to companies to individuals – and to improve living standards. The initiative is using a combination of existing and advanced technology to help counter the looming threat of energy shortages as well as significant investments in upgraded infrastructure.
So is it even possible to live on 2,000 watts a month? Today, the average American consumes 12,000 watts, or six times more than the calculated average. The normal Swiss person, on the other hand, consumes 6,000 watts, only three times more. So, it would be theoretically easier for a Swiss person to reduce than an American. Even though projections call for a 40% increase in global energy demand in the next 25 years, the Swiss scientists believe it’s possible – it will just take time. Like 50 years, given the magnitude of change they’re calling for.
In the meantime, Swiss families are experimenting to see how much energy that can save. Although none had reached the 2,000-watt goal in the article I read, many had cut their consumption in half using advanced technology. Let me repeat that for emphasis: cut their usage in HALF.
So what can we learn from the Swiss 2,000-watt experiment? Some important behavior change lessons:
- Set and communicate an ambitious goal
- Compare it to other people’s use to create a new social norm
- Provide the latest technology and tools to achieve the goal
- Create a community around collective efforts to reach the goal
- Celebrate the right behaviors even when the goal isn’t reached yet
BTW: this made me look at my latest power bill to see how my usage compared with the thrifty Swiss. My household used 1,654 KWH last month, down from 1,781 KWH last year. At that rate, I’ll blow through almost 20,000 KWH in a year. Hmmm, time to look for more ways to conserve energy around my house.