Making customers pay – twice – for a mandate

According to an AP story which came across the WBOC wires, Delmarva Power is looking to extract $39 million from its Delaware-based customers to cover the cost of installing so-called smart meters around the state. In their state Public Service Commission filing the utility claims that they spent $72 million on replacement, with much of it offset by savings but $26 million lost in depreciation value.

PHI, the holding company that owns and operates Delmarva Power, notes in their 2010 Annual Environmental Sustainability Report that “development of (advanced metering infrastructure) is nearing completion in Delaware…In total, PHI is installing about 1.2 million smart meters across its jurisdictions.” In that same report, they boast about receiving a $168 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to “support the rollout of our smart grid initiatives.” In other words, they used our tax dollars to get this ball rolling and now expect ratepayers to make up the difference. Now that’s chutzpah.

Before I go on, I feel I should remind you that I’m all in favor of energy efficiency. But you won’t catch me willingly putting one of these smart meters on my domicile, and the reason is simple. A smart meter is set for two-way operation, and while the utility will tell you all about the benefits of being able to save money by tracking your energy usage and eventually adopting the option of dynamic pricing, they are more hesitant to add that they also can control your thermostat and cycle your heat or central air system on or off remotely. Perhaps you prefer 70 degrees year-round in your home, but the utility would have the power to enforce a setting of 65 in the winter and 78 in the summer. Sorry, I prefer maintaining controls and determining whether the extra expense is worth it on my own.

For its part, PHI just says “this huge undertaking (of installing smart meters) will take considerable time and investment, and will provide benefits to customers and all those interested in reducing regional and national energy use.” (Emphasis mine.) My problem is that those interested in reducing energy use seem to align far too often with those who would like to reduce our standard of living.

And those who would reduce our standard of living by flat-out lying about the need to turn away from fossil fuels before we run out will probably have a collective heart attack when they read – by the federal government’s own figures – that we have generations’ worth of recoverable fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) under our own landmass and beneath waters we control. It’s only because the government doesn’t have the will to allow its extraction that we go without. (h/t: Steve Maley.)

So the only limit to our energy usage should be that enforced by our bottom line, not the one envisioned by do-gooders in Dover, Annapolis, or Washington, D.C. And if we got cracking on using our own resources for a change we might be able to lower our electrical rates much more than forcing us to shiver in a 65 degree house in midwinter would ever do.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.