An individual mandate for electricity meters.8:21 AM, Feb 13, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In the early days of the Obama administration, “smart power” was all the rage—and not just on the foreign policy scene. In April 2009, National Public Radio reported how one Allentown, Pennsylvania, mother was saving more than a hundred dollars each month on her electric bill. Tammy Yeakel’s power company, PPL Energy, had helpfully installed a “smart meter” on her home that could monitor her power usage in real time. The meter uploaded that information to PPL’s website, so she could identify peak usage times during the day.
“I love this site,” Yeakel told NPR. “I called PPL and said, ‘Did you design this for me?’ Because I'm one of these people who love to know where my dollars [are] going and how can I save.”
Thanks to her newfound knowledge made possible by the smart meter, Yeakel was finding all sorts of ways to save, like installing a storm door and switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. And in the middle of the recession, those extra dollars saved were important.
The Obama administration wanted in on the action, too. From NPR:
President Obama wants to use stimulus money to help install 40 million smart meters nationwide to help Americans save electricity and money. Smart meters can track energy use daily, hourly, monthly and even instantaneously, and send that data to power companies. The advanced meters can save companies money, because they no longer need meter readers, and they can fix outages more efficiently.
Even with the purported opportunities to save, not everyone was pleased with the meters, especially since this new “smart grid” seemed to be getting things wrong. The New York Times reported in December 2009 that many customers in California were in “open revolt” over the nearly 4 million new meters already installed by the utility company Pacific Gas & Electric because they claimed the meters were running too fast and charging them for energy they hadn’t used.
One meticulous customer interviewed by the Times compared her usage for the month July 2008, before the meter was installed, to July 2009. She found her recorded usage jumped from 474 kilowatt-hours to 646 kilowatt-hours. Her bill was more than $20 higher. Another customer saw an even bigger jump in 2009, from 236 kilowatt-hours to 791 kilowatt-hours. “And he had recently insulated his attic and installed new windows,” wrote the Times.
Despite the growing outrage and the significant cost to PG&E to buy and install the meters—the Times reported roughly $220 per house—the company planned to expand smart meter use. This was ostensibly in the name of saving the consumer and company money:
Power companies say the meters will allow utilities to vary the price charged to their customers by the hour to correspond to what those utilities are paying for energy in the wholesale market. This can help consumers save money, they say.
They also say the meters will be crucial to remaking the electric system to handle intermittent power sources like wind turbines and solar cells while continuously meeting customers’ needs.
But those happy days when people had the choice to be "smarter" (brought to you by your public utility company and friendly federal government) are apparently over in Illinois. A state law passed in 2011 now requires homes and businesses have the smart meters installed. And per a decision by state regulators last week, those who refuse the meters will now see an extra charge on their monthly electric bill. The Chicago Tribune has the story on what might be considered Illinois's individual mandate on smart meters:
Commonwealth Edison customers who refuse to have smart meters installed will be charged $21.53 a month, regulators decided Wednesday.
"If customers make the decision to refuse a (smart) meter now and incur monthly charges associated with this choice it should be with full knowledge that this refusal is simply deferring the inevitable," the Illinois Commerce Commission said in its order.
The message? Get smart, or pay up.
1:33 PM, Feb 3, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Keystone Pipeline, which has been studied for more than five years, will be studied some more. A State Department study was generally thought to be the conclusive and it has now been delivered. But we are told by the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that there is more studying to be done. McDonough said, on Sunday morning television, that President Obama:
12:00 AM, Jan 25, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
There is something about the energy business that is conducive to the creation of myths. So Roger Sant, a long-time and highly respected participant in the energy policy game and in the industries that energy legislation and regulation affect, told a group of Houston oil men recently. Energy myths do die, but only to be replaced by new ones.
3:11 PM, Jan 17, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Canada's foreign minister, John Baird put things plainly:
8:26 AM, Nov 1, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Although CO2 is considered a "greenhouse gas" that contributes to climate change, if the Energy Department (DOE) finds partners to capitalize on the research of one of its laboratories, someday cars might run on sunshine. Technically, cars would run on the product of sunlight, CO2, and water using a "two-step solar thermochemical cycle" developed by the Albuquerque, New Mexico government lab.
8:26 AM, Oct 15, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The past two weeks have been filled with stories of government offices, agencies, services, workers, monuments, websites, memorials, and parks that have been closed, suspended, furloughed, and even barricaded.
8:46 AM, Sep 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp "is ready to take on President Obama over the long-delayed approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline — and she predicts her side will prevail," according to USA Today.
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By KELLY JANE TORRANCE
It's not often officials from the nation’s largest business lobby and an AFL-CIO-affiliated union speak to one another, let alone work together. But last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and North America’s Building Trades Unions held a joint press conference on Capitol Hill in support of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Nearby that same day, exactly five years after Trans-Canada Corp.
How many times must a bald eagle die?Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
In their seemingly quixotic efforts to reduce emissions, energy companies have increasingly tilted towards windmills. The United States now houses some 45,000 wind turbines on nearly 900 wind farms. That’s enough to power about 1.6 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Despite the much-hyped natural gas boom, wind is now the number one source of new power generation in the country; 43 percent of the generating capacity that came online last year was from wind.
2:58 PM, Aug 12, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports today that sales of fossil fuels produced on federal and Indian land continue to decline, dropping 4 percent in fiscal year 2012. The slide continues a decade-long trend that accelerated in 2010, as the chart accompanying the report shows:
The report explains:
It would make Buffett's holding company the nation's 'largest utility holding company.'9:18 AM, Jul 31, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Even if you're Warren Buffett--billionaire investor, founder of Berkshire Hathaway, and Democratic donor--it helps to have friends in high places. Through his holding company MidAmerican Energy, Buffett is currently atttempting to purchase NV Energy, a Nevada-based energy firm, and he's getting some big help from that state's senior U.S. senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid.
7:02 AM, Jul 25, 2013 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY AND JONATHAN RUHE
The momentum to restrict Iranian oil exports has stalled, and it is time for Congress to eschew a more gradualist approach and mandate zero oil exports with zero waivers. This, along with more concrete military pressure, could increase the otherwise slim chances for success in expected new talks with Iran. U.S. lawmakers and Obama Administration officials should not fear the impact on the oil market, which can manage a cutoff of Iranian oil revenue better than can Tehran.
10:54 AM, Jul 17, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Remember the Keystone pipeline Well, if you had forgotten about it, no matter. There has still been no decision on whether or not to go ahead with construction. This, in spite of the fact that: