Conserving Electricity/Energy and the Electric Company Paradox

Do you live in a state that deregulated their electricity services?

I live in Texas, and the electricity industry was deregulated here for many years.

At first I was hesitant to change electric companies.  I bought into the talk from the original regulated company here in Houston about lack of reliability, etc. from the “new companies”.  Thank goodness I realized that was just that – a bunch of talk, from a company that wanted me to stay with them and keep paying really high prices. So, yes, I have changed electric companies many times over the years.  I do my homework.  I have learned a lot about what questions to ask to understand other charges are added on to the bill.  I must say I am now a very educated electricity consumer.   But, alas, that is not what this post is about.

This post is about the paradox of conserving energy (in this case specifically, electricity) and the electric companies way of charging us for our usage.

Does anyone else realize that those of us who actually make a concerted effort to conserve our electricity usage are, in most cases, being penalized for doing so?

Seriously.  Consider this:

1.  My current energy company (which, by the way I am extremely happy with – they actually have THE LOWEST rates I have found in my area) will charge me an additional $19.95 “LOW USAGE FEE” if my electricity usage drops below 1,000 kWh on a monthly basis.  They don’t take into consideration that my AVERAGE electricity usage is around 1,400 kWh, but they are sure to charge me more for being a conscious consumer.

My company is not the only one that does this either.  Many of the others are right there with them (or they just charge you more for the first 500 kWh used, using a graduated scale).

2. This same company (bless their heart), called me several months ago and offered to replace my thermostat in my home for free with one of those new “Nest” thermostats.  Plus, they said they would service this stat if anything went wrong.  But here is the deal, when I asked the person about what if I changed electric companies, she didn’t have an answer as to what I would have to pay them.  PLUS – REFER TO ITEM #1 above – THEY DON’T PROVIDE ANY INCENTIVES FOR USING LESS ELECTRICITY…. THEY PENALIZE YOU.  Thank you very much.  I declined their “most generous” offer.  Plus, I don’t need a stat that “thinks for me”.

3. Everywhere you look, when you are considering a major electric appliance purchase, you are bombarded with “energy-efficient” options.

Case in point – I had to replace my air conditioner in the past week.  I did my research, talked to the company about options and tax credits available, as well as what the cost of the replacement in order to be eligible for said credit.  What I found out… If I wanted to get a tax credit of $350, I had to spend $10,000 on a unit that MAY save me 20% in kWh.  My other choice was to replace the unit with the same size/efficiency model for $5,000.  (yes, 1/2 the cost)

Now, consider this:

A. My electric bills (with the great rate that I get) averages about $120 (excluding taxes, and presuming an average 1,400 kWh usage). Now consider that this cost is not 100% due to my air conditioner.

B. When I consider that my winter bills (no air conditioning needed) is about $60, one is save to presume the air conditioner costs me around $60/month. Add to this fact that I only use my air conditioner for about 8 months out of the year (I do live in Houston after all…) So – 20% savings on $60/month = $12. for 8 months = $96/year.

C. so, computing how long it would take me to recoup the $4,650 (that is the $5,000 difference, minus the $350 tax credit) at an average of $96/savings in electric bill/year… 48 YEARS to recoup the additional cost of the more energy-efficient unit!  Really?  Does this even make any sense??

I didn’t even consider the fact that as the years go by, the efficiency of the more expensive unit will go down…

D.  PLUS – I didn’t consider the fact that I will be CHARGED AN ADDITIONAL $19.95 from my electric company if my usage drops below 1,000!  Taking that into consideration – such a purchase would actually be COSTING ME MORE instead of helping me keep my expenses down.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that deregulation was good for the consumer, though the industry had to go through some very challenging times to get to where they are today, but seriously… Low Usage Fees when you are trying your hardest to cut your electric bill costs?

So what to do??  Well, luckily, I am in a contract where even my usage drops below 1,000 kWh, (and it does in the winter sometimes), I am still paying less per kWh than if I were with another company.

Does anyone else ever think about this stuff like I do?

Something that makes you go mmmmm…..


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