Some utilities are rushing to raise fixed charges. That would be bad for the economy and your utility bill
Slow growth in electricity demand (or, in some places, flat or declining sales) and growing numbers of customer photovoltaic systems are creating concern among utilities about their ability to adequately recover the costs associated with producing electricity. In response, there has been a disturbing trend around the country of utilities proposing to simply raise monthly “fixed charges,” or the charges we pay to the utility just for being a customer.
As you may know, I’ve been thinking about issues relating to the utility of the future, as documented in our June 2014 report. The report mentions, but does not emphasize, a potential emerging trend that could have a large impact on many utilities: the reduction of the traditional mid-afternoon peak, and the growth of an evening peak. (Peak is the time when demand for power is highest.)
Voters made many decisions on Election Day. Governors were chosen and new laws were adopted. But one choice Arizona voters didn’t get to make may raise utility costs for families and businesses in the state.
Baseball’s All-Star Game assembles teams of the best athletes to face off against each other and play at an extraordinary level, beyond what is possible during the regular season. Natural gas and electric utilities design and build dual-fuel energy efficiency programs that score added energy savings and cut costs beyond what they could have achieved on their own. While the All-Star Game happens just once each year, combined gas and electric energy efficiency programs are performing at levels beyond the ordinary on an ongoing basis.
The electric and gas utility industries are facing substantial changes. For decades, rising sales have contributed to increasing revenues and profits, but the combination of improved energy efficiency with the growing use of solar electric systems and other forms of “distributed energy” has reduced growth rates, which could lead to small declines in future sales.
Commercial buildings consume 20% of the total energy used in the United States---more than the energy consumed by all the nation’s cars, trains, and airplanes put together. A significant portion of this energy can be saved through efficiency in design, systems, and operation. Utilities and other efficiency program administrators have long been incentivizing energy efficiency measures that target various energy end uses such as lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Today ACEEE is releasing the Field Guide to Utility-Run Behavior Programs, the first comparative analysis of programs that focus on changing customer behavior to save energy.
Report Will Be Centerpiece of White House Sponsored Roundtable with Building Owners and Utilities
The Behavior and Human Dimensions staff at ACEEE have been conducting a form of ‘bird-watching’ by collecting sightings of utility-run behavior programs in the wild. We have been recording information about the variety of programs that exist, examining the frequency of their distribution, and generally seeking to ascertain how they come to occupy their specific ecological niches, including those at both electric and gas utilities.