Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why Do You Want Me to Save?

"Why does the Utility want me to save, after all, they are in the business of selling energy?", was probably the most frequent question asked when performing an energy audit in someone's home. In the thousands of home that I visited over the years, rarely was the same answer ever given to that question. The reason for this is that the answer to the question is not only complicated but also is multi-faceted.

Let's consider Demand Side Management (DSM) as a plausible answer to the question. In attempting to describe DSM to the average energy bill payer, it became apparent to me that simpler was better. After all, my sole purpose for being there was to encourage energy conservation on their part. Other answers that were given were environmental, public relations, regulation, deregulation and many more. Each answer had it's own issues and I must say one must be careful in electing an answer. If you are not, what will follow can only be described as combative. An example of this is when in one home discussing this topic with a young woman, who apparently had liberal views; the answer chosen by me was the environment.

Without me knowing, her husband the staunch conservative who was lurking in the hallway and over heard the statement about the environment, leaped out and denounced me as one of those people who are destroying the economy and eventually this great country. On the other hand, the husband and wife appeared to be conservative and the answer chosen by me was deregulation in order to make these Utilities more viable. Before the answer was finished, the wife interrupted and said, "Anything for profits and the hell with the planet!" This was the beginning of a lecture by her about the environment and how the decisions that we make today affect the generations yet to come. It is good to note that both examples were during the Reagan era.

The aforementioned primary purpose is to prepare you for my answer to the question. I have no doubt that my answer will have some say it's not enough, others will say, it's too much and the rest will say it didn't answer the question. There are many problems facing Utilities today and my answer only addresses a particular aspect of one of their problems. Although conservations programs may address other problem and support other goals Utilities may have, my answer does not. The Utilities actually don't want you to lower your energy bills. What they do want is that you understand why you bills are what they are. The vast majority of complaints that the Utilities receive are about high-energy bills.

If you could hear the tapes that record these conversations, one phrase is common to all of them. That is " I don't understand why my bills are this high," When the federal government mandated energy conservation programs for Utilities, the Utilities saw this as a opportunity to educate their customers about energy use in their homes. If fact they saw this as a way of alleviating the cost incurred from high-energy bill complaints and at the same time receive the credits for complying with federally mandated conservation programs. This is a perfect example of how businesses take advantage of an imposed policy. One can equate this to tax avoidance and no one can blame them for being smart.

Over the years the energy environment changed and this was primarily due to aging infrastructure and the lack of land available to build new power plants. The result was giving the aforementioned answer new meaning. Demand Side Management deal with the reduction of peak load demands and more efficient maintenance scheduling. The result would be prolonged life of their present infrastructure.

The Energy Star Programs emphasize this, from ordinary household appliances to home building. Rebate programs that encourage the purchase of energy efficient appliances, so that the public would have the same conveniences but use less energy to do so. This reduction of energy use merely scratches the surface of the problems the Utilities face. Therefore the present energy conservation programs offered by Utilities represent a relatively small aspect of their overall plan to obtain their objectives. One can say, saving on your energy bill is a direct result of the Utilities needs.

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