• Nice try NationalGrid

    I receive a letter every month from NationalGrid, my electricity supplier. It includes a graph like the one below (which I think was from my March letter) along with the explanation that the “all neighbors” figure was an average of monthly electricity usage for the 100 nearest homes, and the “efficient neighbors” figure was the monthly average of the 20 homes out of those 100 that used the least electricity.


    When I saw this graph I was shocked that my home’s electricity usage was not anywhere near that of the efficient group. We pride ourselves on energy efficiency in my home. We’ve invested considerably to reduce our carbon footprint. Why aren’t we more efficient relative to our neighbors?

    Then I realized I was beating myself up for no good reason. The graphic that NationalGrid sent me wasn’t that informative. Selecting the 20 most efficient of our 100 nearest neighbors doesn’t make for a fair comparison. There are likely many significant differences between my family and those in that group, including family size and number of hours per week at home (our small children are at home with a parent part of the work week). Without adjusting for such things I don’t think NationalGrid is providing a worthwhile comparison.

    I still would like to use less energy. I don’t need NationalGrid to remind me to do so, but I appreciate their effort. I just wish the figures were a little more targeted. No doubt some folks actually change their behavior based on these NationalGrid mailings. There is some evidence that these type of “nudge” letters do contribute toward reduced energy use, a little.

    • It’s all your blogging that is using up the electricity!

    • It’s definitely a very basic try, but you have to start somewhere. I don’t think utilities have the data infrastructure in place to compare us to really similar households.

    • Alternatively, Austin may THINK his household is being efficient, but they may be mistaken. The same thing happens in healthcare all the time – think the Gawande article on McAllen, TX.

    • Just got OUR ‘Neighbor Comparison in the mail. I was feeling pretty good about our ‘great’ rating, complete with 2 smily faces, when I realized that our house is the smallest on the block. OF COURSE our heating bill is lower. And it’s skewing the survey.

      • @Stephen – It does make me wonder what thinks should be adjusted for and what shouldn’t. If one has a small house that’s still an energy-efficient choice. What about family size though? Or hours at home per week?

    • I wonder – does it take into account all the empty foreclosed homes? Those homes are very green – especially the pools – from the algae – and green from the overgrown weeds! Their usage must be very low! Or how about the homes where Nat Grid shut them off due to non-payment as a result of job loss? Or some combo of the two – Where the family is foreclosed upon, yet still squatting, shivering – or roasting, depending on the season. Well at least the global warming thing is helping those poor frigid children stay warmer than in past years… but then there’s that pesky surcharge that those left paying must incur – the charge ( I love this one ) “that reads something like “variation from seasonal norm” – you know where since it was warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer that you were able to keep energy usage down, but they throw in a fee for NOT USING ENOUGH JUICE! Forget about being green – just don’t be in the red. Be in the black!