TEDActive Urbanization: Day 1 wrap up

Hi everybody,

During this first inspirational day of TEDActive the subject of energy has been everywhere. The talks of Paul Gilding  and Peter Diamandis have projected two different outlooks of our city of the future. One of energy scarcity and crisis, where we will need to be kinder and more considerate. The other one of abundance of energy and communication, that will fuel a future where our quality of life will continue to rise.

Between these two opposite future scenarios we have started to engage with the community to activate our project challenge about ‘How to better manage energy in the city of the future?’.

Yesterday we had a great visit to a wind farm here in Palm Springs, where we learnt that all the 3800 turbines in the area wouldn’t be enough to power the city of Palm Springs (population 44,500), so today we wanted to understand better where all this energy is going and why we are not making more out of it.

To start the conversation with every TEDActive participant, we kicked off with a personal question: ‘What stops you from saving energy?’

As we expected we have received a wide range of answers over Twitter, facebook, quick spontaneous reactions in the project space and deeper, inspirational sessions over breakfast and lunch builder sessions.

The responses we have received have ranged across personal and more technical, systemic issues, we have categorised in these four areas:

  •  Convenience, habit, comfort:
    From laziness to deep love for a V8 or the air conditioning, we have seen there seems to be a conflict between our day to day life pressures and pleasures, and saving.  Even if we are conscious of energy use, its relatively low cost doesn’t make it top of mind when we need to get something done, or when we need to indulge or enjoy. To make a difference energy saving mechanisms need to be embedded in the products we use.
  • Lack of education, awareness, social pressure:
    Beyond the bottom line in the monthly bill, the intangibility of energy makes it difficult for people to engage in it as a product. Despite the advance of technological solutions to measure consumption, many of the participants still refer to lack of interest, information or awareness of the cost of each action, as the reason why they are not getting more out of the energy they consume.

  • High barriers to enter for significant change:
    Both cost and better understanding of the solutions that can help reducing  energy consumption seem a great barrier to enter a more efficient lifestyle. The folks we talked to who had implemented important changes were highly engaged or technical savvy, and in any case had disposed of the capital to invest, quickly reaping the benefits. Today’s business models around energy efficiency don’t favour those less educated, that are often those who could benefit most from saving on their bill every month.
  • Inefficiency, dumb system, bad infrastructure:
    From lack, or undesirable public transport to traffic and red tape, big systemic hurdles were another of the areas widely discussed. In this case the discussion was less attached to the individuals, as change at big scale seemed only achievable with commitment from the government and big players like utilities and energy producers.

That’s our quick summary of the packed day. Tomorrow we will start from these personal hurdles to saving more, and move into actual, or future solutions to use better our energy. We will reach to our multidisciplinary community to collect the best inspiration out there and move into ideas and actions by the end of the week.

Watch this space!

Your Urban Project,

Evan, Jenna and Luis

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