Calling out won't help.

How to communicate the reduction of the load on the power grid

Recently, accusations such as "If the neighbours hadn't turned on the washing machine,I would have electricity now" have become more common on social media. Alongside this, official resources publish infographics with percentages of electricity consumption in different regions. "Yesterday, Kyiv consumed 7% more electricity than Kharkiv. You should be ashamed of yourselves!".

Let's figure out why such comparisons and accusations don't work.

Let's look back at the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Some people wore respirators, washed their hands, and kept their distance. And some people took off their masks in public places, sneezed past their elbows, and sat down in the cinema more than once.

But wait. Why are we talking about these people as two separate groups? They are the same people. Only at different times.

For the first month, we wiped door handles with antiseptic and wore latex gloves. Later, we started removing the mask on the street and putting it on only indoors. Later, the mask became mandatory only at the subway and medical facilities entrance.

This winter, we are facing a similar transformation. For example, on the day of the first large-scale missile attacks on infrastructure facilities, motivated Ukrainians, at the call of the authorities, switched off all electrical appliances and sat by candlelight across the country.

A few days later, some of us realised that our stove and oven were electric. It's hard to find time to cook during the working day. At night, it's better to sleep rather than do laundry. And at the recommended 12.00-17.00, when you can enjoy the "benefits of civilisation", many people are at work.

It is unclear how to fit the energy savingschedule into the usual daily schedule.Now let's look at the reasons for this behaviour change. Three key factors influence this:

1. Uncomfortable conditions for a long time
A week of candlelit evenings doesn't seem as romantic as the first day. The temperature outside is getting colder and colder without a heater. It will be difficult to stay in an icy room for months on end. After all, warmth is one of the basic human needs.
2. Invisibility of the risk
As with COVID-19, we do not see the threat with our eyes. Network overload is an ephemeral phrase for our reptilian part of the brain. It is the part of the brain that is responsible for survival in a crisis.
3. Psychological compensation "take more while you can"
Think of your grandparents, who made us finish a piece of bread under any circumstances. Not because they were fans of bakery products. They just remember the times when they were in dire need of food. And this need could not be satisfied.

The same thing is happening to us. Rolling blackouts are saving energy right now. But at the level of perception of the oldest part of the human brain, they force us to compensate for this lack by increasing consumption.

"As long as there is light, you need to charge all the devices. Do the laundry. Load the dishwasher. Keep your laptop and phone charged." This is the paradox of saving, which only increases household consumption.

But we still need to save energy.So how can we encourage Ukrainiansto follow the rules?

Positive motivationWe tend to be part of society. Flash mobs in social networks "I save energy. I buy candles. I also recommend a gas burner" are quite appropriate because they give a sense of belonging to a community. They work. However, most Ukrainians do not have horizontal connections in social media, but they do have them at the community level. Therefore, it is worth thinking about how to encourage people in the community to be "conscious".
Visualising the threatWhat is "grid overload"? Why does this particular power plant need help? Figures, data presented in a convenient format. People need to understand why they feel discomfort. By analogy with the events at the frontline, "we work so that the Armed Forces can protect us. Here is a very specific hero. He defended Mariupol. We are proud of him. We will continue to donate to help him survive."
A user-friendly tool with a schedule of rolling blackoutsCurrently, the announced rolling blackouts often do not coincide with reality. The websites of official government agencies have a street search tool. However, many addresses are not in this database. This means that all residents of these streets and neighbourhoods are deprived of the opportunity to understand when they will have electricity and when they will not.

Following transparent rulescannot be unilateral

Any guarantees about outage plans will increase the savings results. They will help people to plan their day. Over time, this will become critically important.

If it is not possible to make accurate outage plans, people need as transparent an explanation as possible as to why the outage plan does not match reality.