Friday, December 11, 2015

Energize Connecticut!


It's actually called Energize Connecticut, without the exclamation point, but seems to me such a bold program demands an exclamation point.

Energize Connecticut is an initiative dedicated to empowering Connecticut to make smart energy choices, now and in the future. We provide Connecticut consumers, businesses and communities the resources and information they need to make it easy to save energy and build a clean energy future for everyone in the state. It is an initiative of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities. The initiative has funding support from a charge on customer energy bills...
The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF) works to advance the efficient use of energy; reduce air pollution and negative environmental impacts; and promote economic development and energy security...

The Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund is supported by all Eversource and United Illuminating customers on their electricity bills through the Combined Public Benefits Charge; and by Connecticut Natural Gas, and Southern Connecticut Gas Company and Eversource customers through a conservation charge included in their rates.
We've been in our current house for about 10 years. 10 years ago, the Combined Public Benefits Charge on our electric bill was about 1.8% of the total bill; now it is about 6%. It went up around the same time Malloy was elected Governor. Coincidence I'm sure. On my gas bill the conservation charge was about 0.1% of the total bill in 2007 and is now about 4% of the total bill.

The program is a government mandated program and not a tool for the power company to avoid building new plants. I happened to open my electric bill today and the December 2015 customer update from Eversource, my electric and gas provider says,

As an energy delivery company, we purchase electricity from power plant owners, and pass the cost, with no profit added, directly to customers who are on our Standard Service supply option.
 It is true an organization wants to avoid building power plants, but it is the State of Connecticut, not Eversource or United Illuminating. The various programs imposed on gas and electric users by the government results in higher prices. The Combined Public Benefits Charge and Conservation Adjustment are visible manifestations of this but the hidden and insidious costs are in things like renewal fuel standards that mandate higher cost, less reliable wind and solar in place of cheap, abundant and clean natural gas.

Another hidden cost are government policies that reduce the supply of natural gas. From the same Eversource customer update:

New England still faces significant constraints on natural gas supplies, which are increasing winter electric prices.
For that we can partially thank Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, for ignoring the overwhelming evidence that hydraulic fracturing is safe and banning the practice in New York. Such a shame that the poor among us will pay higher prices for electricity so the wealthy in Manhattan can sleep soundly knowing they have saved the world. And, as I've pointed out in the past, energy costs are a much larger portion of a poor person's budget than they are for the wealthy.
My guess is, these energy savings programs are transfer programs from the poor to the wealthy, but I have nothing to prove that. I do have this:

"Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver? Evidence from the Weatherization Assistance Program," by Meredith Fowlie, Michael Greenstone, and Catherine Wolfram. Here is the abstract:

Conventional wisdom suggests that energy efficiency (EE) policies are beneficial because they induce investments that pay for themselves and lead to emissions reductions. However, this belief is primarily based on projections from engineering models. This paper reports on the results of an experimental evaluation of the nation’s largest residential EE program conducted on a sample of more than 30,000 households. The findings suggest that the upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings. Further, the model-projected savings are roughly 2.5 times the actual savings. While this might be attributed to the “rebound” effect – when demand for energy end uses increases as a result of greater efficiency – the paper fails to find evidence of significantly higher indoor temperatures at weatherized homes. Even when accounting for the broader societal benefits of energy efficiency investments, the costs still substantially outweigh the benefits; the average rate of return is approximately -9.5% annually.
That is a negative return when the total cost of the program is accounted for. For the individual using the subsidized program, it can be a great deal, as you discovered. For society, less so. My guess is this program is used more by high energy users more than low energy users, suggesting the poor subsidize the rich. Just a guess.

 Thanks for the tip on how to lower my energy costs. I happen to be looking to do that very thing with a goal of lowering my energy costs by 10%. Accomplishing that with a two year no-interest loan courtesy of my neighbors seems like a great deal to me.


PS. I will answer your "what if" question. It is a very fair one.

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