Spurring change in utility usage

The Government has called for proposals to develop smart metering systems that will tell you in real time how much water, gas and electricity you use.

It is another example of how technology is making it easier to keep tabs on behaviour, and can potentially change it.

In principle, it is not very different from how people are already using mobile fitness apps to track their eating habits, sleep and exercise.

The idea is that you change a situation only if you understand it.

Since August, consumers have already been able to compare their consumption of energy and water with that of their neighbours living in similar housing types within a block, or a street for landed premises, as well as with the national average. This nudges heavier users to cut back on their usage.

With a smart metering system - which is planned for a trial in early 2018 - consumers will get half-hourly breakdowns on the amount of utilities they are using in real time, which will better help them change their consumption patterns and cut down on excessive usage.

Project OptiWatt, a two-year pilot launched on Monday to test the viability of demand management models and other technologies, will also allow large consumers such as schools and government agencies to shift or reduce their electricity use according to demand, hence reducing the strain on the grid.

As Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said, smart energy infrastructure is altering the traditional roles of consumers and grid operators. "Consumers are now more empowered than ever to generate their own electricity, optimise their energy use and respond to market conditions," he said.

The latest announcements at the ongoing Singapore International Energy Week show that consumers are getting more tools to help them make informed decisions on their water, gas and electricity consumption.

What remains is for them to take that step and make a change.

Samantha Boh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Spurring change in utility usage'. Print Edition | Subscribe