TED Conversations

Joe Nyangon


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Why has "green consumption" of sustainable products (e.g. Whole Foods, Toyota Prius) not permeated electricity consumption?

While many consumers have embraced sustainable products (eg. Whole Foods, Toyota Prius), that ethos has not yet permeated electricity consumption. Why do you think this is the case? Will it always be like this? Will renewable energy consumption be driven only by government mandates? Why? Or do you think this will change? If the marketplace were fair and rational, there would be no need for subsidies and mandates for the renewables and a proper carbon tax would suffice—as is starting to happen in Europe through cap-and-trade system. What will drive the change to clean energy consumption?


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  • Mar 31 2012: I think there is a social element here, it's not just about the 'marketplace' and policy. Think about it; with the organic food movement there is a social element, there is a different vibe in an organic or local foods market, there are those conversations at the farmer's market, and let's not forget that it's better for you and you can feel it. When it comes to clothing, home goods, there is a lot of the same elements, less conversation but it is healthier and you can feel it, but we also move into a sort of public display of our belief system. With cars there are practical reasons that make great sense but they are also moving more into the realm of public display. When hybrids came out they did marginally better than a small ICE from 10-15 years before when cars were smaller yet a new hybrid cost 10 times more, they hardly made sense yet many people bought them. We as humans are inherently social creatures and we care about what people think about us and how we want to be perceived, and electricity, well it's invisible (except for that large array of solar panels on the roof). Switching to a clean energy supplier is a decision that is invisible as well, so there is no social motivator. I've been interested lately in smart meters but I would like to see them somehow tied together or in some way able to provide a comparison metric so people can see how their energy use compares to that of their neighbors, make it competitive and social so that people can know how they are doing. Fair and rational may work for some people but don't overlook our desire to one-up the Jones's.

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