Invisibility is the main challenge in the drive to change the ways people save energy, with consumers more likely to cut their energy use if they can see it.
"The problem is, energy and energy production and infrastructure, are mostly invisible. Out of sight, out of mind, which is probably why we waste so much of it," director of Carbon Arts, Jodi Newcombe said in her opening speech to the Australia and US Dialogue on Energy Security in Sydney.
Energy companies overseas, such as Southern California Edison and PG&E in the US, have used creative devices such as an "Energy Orb" to make energy visible, resulting in up to 40 per cent reduction in peak period energy usage.
Originally designed to monitor financial information, the Energy Orb, designed by Ambient Devices, is a frosted-glass ball that glows different colours to display real time energy usage and corresponding electricity rates.
Ms Newcombe said these strategies work in managing consumer demand because consumers are more likely to act on a subtle but always present message than one that they are forced to stare at.
"The glowing sphere is less annoying than a text alert. When the ball is flashing red, you notice," Ms Newcombe said.
Various other creative devices have emerged since the Ambient Energy Orb.
DIY Kyoto's "The Wattson" is a home energy monitor shaped like a digital clock which provides real-time feedback on consumption in a household. It also provides a signal when "free" or cheap electricity is being generated.
Up to 10 per cent in energy savings can be achieved with "The Wattson".
A Swedish design group, the Interactive Institute, created the "Power-Aware Cord" which is an electricity cable that lights up when electricity starts flowing into appliances. The more energy being drawn, the brighter the cord becomes.
In Finland, visual energy methods have also seen up to 60 per cent reduction in energy consumption.
Ms Newcombe's company, Carbon Arts, is developing a project called "dotBlush" which is a concept where a building lights up when a certain amount of energy is generated.
Australia's current energy demand management schemes involve the use of smart meters in Victoria and soon, NSW.
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