Friday, August 10, 2007

Everything's Gone Green

by Tom Bozzo

I wouldn't usually consider a letter telling me my electricity bill was going up to be good news, but yesterday's mail brought word that we've reached the front of Madison Gas & Electric's wind power queue and our electricity usage is now 100% wind power, for 2.68 cents/KWh over the regular 13-cent rate.

We had prepared for this by installing energy-efficient lighting throughout the house and eliminating the need for electric space heat [*], so that the price increase should be washed by reduced usage. The fruits of the effort are already visible in our use history, which MGE conveniently makes available on Teh Intertubes:
Electricity Usage

In fact, the letter adds that a proposed expansion of MGE's renewables program would reduce the clean power price premium to only one cent/KWh. [**] Fans of Jim Kunstler [***] might note that the issue with renewable energy is not price but the quantity that can be supplied. While cool breakthrough technologies such as cheap nanotech photovoltaics may help (maybe a lot), it shouldn't be forgotten that many electrons go to waste, with residential lighting, vampiric home electronics, and bottom-feeding office PCs among the notable offenders. Knocking 10% off of residential electricity demand won't save the world, for sure, but it (a) can't hurt and (b) is within the realm of the effectively free.

[*] This was partly via a no-cost reassignment of bedrooms, and partly via installation of a radiant heating system whose payback will be measured in utils, not dollars.

[**] To the possible objection that the one cent premium is subsidized, I note that the non-renewable power doesn't pay its external costs, given our coal-centric conventional generation.

[***] I'd count myself as one, though I don't agree with him all the time. (E.g.)

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