Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Savage averages...

Thought for the day: mediocrity is still nothing more than mediocrity even if it 'works'.

The other day I was talking to someone about household power use and how the solar panels we'd installed 18 months ago, together with credits from both the state and federal governments meant that our last two power bills have been credits. This even with the significant increases in utility costs in Western Australia.

Not long after she opened her own bill to see a figure in the mid three digit range and with an average daily power usage of 42kWh (ambiguously called 'units' on the bill). Thinking it must be a mistake akin to the meter man swapping numbers when transcribing* she then checked older bills and this came up as 'average'.

'Units' are difficult to put into more tangible, comprehensible 'stuff' but the way I understand it a kWh is wattage usage over time. ie. an old incandescent 100W lightbulb being on for 10 hours would result in 1000W usage or 1kWh (kilowatt hour). 42kWh would then equate to 42 100W light bulbs being on for 10 hours, every day.

To each their own with the power usage but it did make me think about the Water Utility here and how they use a marketing strategy to potentially shame users into using less.

On each water consumption bill you are presented with a bar graph that has your usage from the same period in the previous year, this bill's volume as well as the suburb's average. For us at least, it is surprisingly motivating to try to be 'below' average.

The problem with power usage is that it could potentially back fire. ie. if the average for the whole of Perth is relatively high - which it undoubtedly is - then people will potentially use even more thinking they don't need to be so 'angelic'.

We often hypothesis that some must be consuming exceptional amounts to bring the universal average up. An example of this would be the consumption figures for meat:
In 2005/06 the averages for annual meat consumption per capita in Australia:

Beef and Veal: 36.7 kilograms
Poultry: 38 kilograms
Pork: 22.2 kilograms
Lamb and Mutton: 13 kilograms

A total of 109.9 kilograms per year.

Source: Green Living Tips

This would equate to EVERY Australian eating over 2kg (!) of meat a week which I find highly doubtful.

I poked around a bit more and found another set of interesting, per capita consumption figures indirectly from the ABS in 2000:

Meat and meat products: 71.6 kg;
Seafood: 10.9 kg;
Fruit and fruit products (including fruit juices): 135.0 kg;
Tomatoes: 24.9 kg;
Other (?) vegetables: 25.1 kg.

Reading that I think people must be doing nothing else other than eating.

* Prior to the installation of our panels we used 7-8kWH per day.

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