One hundred years ago it was critical to electrify America and bring the benefits of this amazing energy source to every citizen – think Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Access to a reliable electric grid has made us prosperous and comfortable. At that time the electrical utilities and transmission companies were nudged with tax incentives and guaranteed profit margins to create the reliable electrical grid that serves us well today.
With that mission accomplished, we’re now faced with a different kind of challenge. Most of us would like to see the U.S. reduce carbon emissions to help slow the effects of climate change. But for over 100 years we’ve encouraged utilities to expand electrical sales most of which is generated by greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels. Can we now nudge them to reduce electrical sales?
Now-a-days consumers have a multitude of options for purchasing, using, and conserving energy. Energy efficiency (EE) choices abound. New distributed energy resources (DERs) like the solar array near Highland, the wind farm being built near Darlington and homeowner rooftop solar are becoming more common. As a result utility profits are being squeezed. In response, these companies raise their fixed user fees. High fixed fees provide little incentive for consumers to conserve energy.
But a handful of states, Michigan, Illinois, Utah and Maryland, have changed the rules. Their utilities’ revenues actually increase when their customers demonstrate energy conservation. Shareholders still earn their profits while customers save money. And with less energy being generated and distributed we all enjoy a cleaner atmosphere.
Like those utilities, we too can be nudged to save money and reduce carbon emissions. It’s been shown that just by paying attention to the electrical bill each month, households can save up to 30%. Nudge your neighbor to do the same. Who doesn’t want to save money and clean the air as well? Besides, this is only place we’ll ever call home. We’re here forever… Earthbound.