Tonight in my hometown, the Public Utility Commission is holding a hearing about Duke Energy’s proposed 17% rate hike. In a nearby community last week, several hundred people showed up to protest the increase, and a similar crowd is expected tonight.
I understand that it’s tough to think about paying more for anything in these uncertain times. But raising the price of energy just might be a great thing for those of us interested in energy efficiency and energy conservation.
In this year’s Energy Pulse, to be released next week, we again see that most people’s bills would have to increase by more than 60% in order for them to invest $4000 in energy efficient home improvements. Fact is, for most people, their energy bills aren’t a point of pain. It’s not a big enough priority for them to really pay attention to their usage, change their habits or upgrade their homes.
Maybe if people’s bills were higher, we’d see the same effect we saw when gas reached $4 a gallon. Americans stopped driving as much. Maybe with energy costs that more accurately reflect the true cost of energy (including new investments in smart grid technology and renewable generation), Americans would stop wasting so much energy and get serious about using it wisely.
Maybe it’s time for Americans to change how they think about rate hikes. Instead of punishment for being energy efficient (thus reducing utility company revenues), these additional dollars can be spent on badly needed infrastructure improvements that will eventually benefit us all. We say we want reliable power, and more energy from renewable sources, but who do we think will pay for that? We all have to pay for that – consumers, governments, and the utility companies.
If we’re serious about a new energy future, maybe it’s time to pony up and pay up.