Putting the Power to Conserve Energy in Consumers’ Hands – Through Technology

By Neil McPhail SVP, Best Buy; Board Member, Alliance to Save Energy

The TV in your living room, the computer in your office and the smart phone in your hand; almost all of us have them, use them, depend on them. All of these devices consume energy. While technology continues to evolve with dizzying speed, there are also growing calls for consumer action – to use less, to save money, and to make smarter, more sustainable lifestyle choices. Consumers are calling for these solutions as well.

In light of these challenges facing consumers, one might think that technology and energy efficiency hardly go hand in hand; I think otherwise. The effort of each organization, large or small, to effect change is significant. Taking greater responsibility falls on the shoulders of those businesses involved at each point of a product’s lifecycle – and the retailer, who operates at the closest point (oftentimes, face-to-face) to the consumer, can be an invaluable and critical partner to the others the value chain, encouraging innovation while being more responsible and identifying ways we can all encourage consumers to make smart choices.

Retailers can do more than galvanize cradle-to-cradle product improvements. In our case, we see consumer technology emerging in new places and spaces, such as home energy management. This is creating opportunities to innovate and expand our own role, as the consumer advocate, to help determine whether smart technologies and emerging industries will resonate and fill the gap. Technologies for energy efficiency, mapping back to the smart grid, are  growing at a rapid clip – and much of it is not all that different from today’s mobile device or music sharing system.

While none of us have all the answers to the future of energy efficiency, we’re focused on ways to encourage manufacturers and utilities to talk more openly and more often about building momentum with consumers. We will continue to play our part as the retailer and service provider to help light the way (so to speak). And as we do our part, we can ask the questions of ourselves, and of our partners – old and new – to help consumers make smarter choices and ask ourselves two questions:

1)  How can technology help consumers reduce energy consumption?

2)  How can I help my customer meet their needs through smarter choices (e.g., reduce utility costs and save energy, too)?

3)  How can we help our customers live the life they want and be energy efficient, effortlessly – with cool technology as well!

This week, we’ll convene utility companies from across the country for Best Buy’s third Energy Efficiency Summit, and continue an ongoing conversation about energy, the consumer, and how we can all work together to drive more efficiency. We sit today in a crucial spot between technology manufacturers and consumers; the spot isn’t all that different between a power utility and the consumer. We have seen promising signs from a handful of home management experiments in various markets, collaboratively managed with Utility partner companies. And our work with various groups and associations, from the Alliance to Save Energy to the Sustainability Consortium, is intentionally designed forward what we do best – demystifying technology for the consumer – in ways that drive more efficiency.

As a retailer, we think it’s the smartest role we can play, for ourselves and for the planet. And we think our efforts are showing promise: I encourage you to take a look at our latest sustainability report, which includes details on our own efforts to reduce energy use and encourage consumers to make smarter technology choices.

As consumers continue to grapple with economic realities and calls for more responsible consumption, we think we can do more, together, to bring everyone along on the journey to a more efficient, connected world.


Neil McPhail is Senior Vice President, New Business Customer Solutions Group, Best Buy; Board Member, Alliance to Save Energy

Image credit flickr user Mark Florence

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