This has to be one of the silliest things I’ve read in a while, which when you consider the vast depths of silliness which the internet offers, is really saying something. Toronto Hydro, among other Canadian utility companies, are considering a program that would “grade” customers in their energy consumption habits with smiley faces, or frowny faces, on their utility bills. Those people who are economical with their energy will receive their bill as per usual, but with a happy face staring up at them, validating them, soothing them in their responsible choices. Those who consume as much energy as, for instance, a Nashville mansion belonging to Al Gore would see an unhappy face. Perhaps even one close to tears. The background:
The program, which is the brainchild of U.S. firm Positive Energy, has been picked up by 15 utility companies south of the border. Both the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the Washington-based Puget Sound Energy use it and both have reported drops in energy consumption of two per cent.
The program also compares the energy use of power customers to their neighbours.
Alex Laskey, president and co-founder of Positive Energy, said his company is saving enough energy to power a city of 100,000 people.
Laskey said Positive Energy’s bar graphs, charts, and yes, even smiley faces, heighten the awareness level of power customers.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans, and Canadians too, think that saving energy is important and that wasting energy is bad,” he said.
“Yet, next to no one has any idea whether they’re actually doing a good job.”
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, a “good job”. Being socially evaluated by a company you pay for their delivery of energy is just one of the perks of living in the modern era. It could work, however. Perhaps the Joneses will try to consume less than the Smiths [or the Singhs and the Wangs if you prefer an inclusive example], and so on and so forth until they’re both living by candlelight in a kind of 19th Century Emily Dickinson hermitage. Imagine waving that smiley face in the face of your envious neighbour.
I’m not quite sure how that would work. But it would be interesting to see whether the disapproving smiley faces get sad or enraged. Imagine the effectiveness of receiving your $500 energy bill with a smiley seething with primal rage for your wanton wastefulness. In fact if the smiley scale has more levels than happy and not happy, you’ll likely have people competing with one another for the saddest or angriest smiley face as well. Especially if you can see the energy consumption of your neighbours, and then try and best their “high score”.