It should not come as a surprise that the general public has serious deficiencies in understanding energy use. In our recently published article E5 = Earth Stewardship; A look at energy, efficiency, entropy, exergy and efficacy we discuss the key fallacy about electrical efficiency pointing out that a significant percentage of the population believes electricity is 100% efficient when on a good day coal generated electricity might reach 35%...a far cry from 100%.
Below is a research abstract from an August 16th, 2010 publication from the National Academy of Sciences addressing this topic in greater detail from an anthropology perspective – it’s on our highly recommended reading list and its free.
Abstract: In a national online survey, 505 participants reported their perceptions of energy consumption and savings for a variety of household, transportation, and recycling activities. When asked for the most effective strategy they could implement to conserve energy, most participants mentioned curtailment (e.g., turning off lights, driving less) rather than efficiency improvements (e.g., installing more efficient light bulbs and appliances), in contrast to experts’ recommendations. For a sample of 15 activities, participants underestimated energy use and savings by a factor of 2.8 on average, with small overestimates for low-energy activities and large underestimates for high-energy activities. Additional estimation and ranking tasks also yielded relatively flat functions for perceived energy use and savings. Across several tasks, participants with higher numeracy scores and stronger pro-environmental attitudes had more accurate perceptions. The serious deficiencies highlighted by these results suggest that well-designed efforts to improve the public's understanding of energy use and savings could pay large dividends.
Citation:Shahzeen Z. Attari, Michael L. DeKay, Cliff I. Davidson, and Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings, PNAS 2010 : 1001509107v1-201001509.