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Being punished for saving energy

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Zarquon » Thu 26 Jul 2018, 18:05:58

Maybe the problem been discussed to death around here, but I never really thought much about it, so here it goes:

I'm going to a small gym once or twice a week. One evening, while working up a sweat, I began counting light fixtures in the hall. All in all it amounted to at least 4-5 KW for lighting alone (neon tubes mostly). 14 h/day, six days a week (the other big item being sauna heating). So during a break I chatted with the owner about energy costs and conservation. After all, couldn't he save a bundle simply by replacing broken tubes with LEDs requiring perhaps 70-80% less energy? How long would it take to pay off?

"Totally pointless", he said. Of course he had done the math, years ago. Even hired a professional energy consultant to take a look. And he had identified the possible ways to save electricity as much as possible, and eliminated quite a bit of waste. The result was that in this year he consumed a little less than the minimum amount of KWh stated in his contract (small business tariff, I didn't ask how much he pays). He said that at the end of the year he received a bill for few thousand € extra, because in accordance with the contract the power company had retroactively put his entire yearly usage into a higher tariff bracket. Ouch. And a small business couldn't get a better contract without such a clause, regardless of which supplier he chose. They all offer pretty much the same.

So, investing money to save energy is pointless because consuming less puts him in a higher tariff zone and he'd pay a lot more per KWh. It never pays off. Now I wonder how big the total wasted potential for conservation is, simply because of minimum consumption clauses in these contracts. I can't even begin to guess a number, but this small gym uses - for lighting alone - as much electricity as five or six average households (I'd estimate > 20000 KWh/a), and more efficient lights could easily cut the consumption by half, or more. Multiply by the number of small businesses, shops, workshops etc. having the same problem, and suddenly the small amounts you can save in your average home seems almost negligible.

Does anyone here have some experience with that?
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby GHung » Thu 26 Jul 2018, 23:01:43

Zarquon wrote:Maybe the problem been discussed to death around here, but I never really thought much about it, so here it goes:

I'm going to a small gym once or twice a week. One evening, while working up a sweat, I began counting light fixtures in the hall. All in all it amounted to at least 4-5 KW for lighting alone (neon tubes mostly). 14 h/day, six days a week (the other big item being sauna heating). So during a break I chatted with the owner about energy costs and conservation. After all, couldn't he save a bundle simply by replacing broken tubes with LEDs requiring perhaps 70-80% less energy? How long would it take to pay off?

"Totally pointless", he said. Of course he had done the math, years ago. Even hired a professional energy consultant to take a look. And he had identified the possible ways to save electricity as much as possible, and eliminated quite a bit of waste. The result was that in this year he consumed a little less than the minimum amount of KWh stated in his contract (small business tariff, I didn't ask how much he pays). He said that at the end of the year he received a bill for few thousand € extra, because in accordance with the contract the power company had retroactively put his entire yearly usage into a higher tariff bracket. Ouch. And a small business couldn't get a better contract without such a clause, regardless of which supplier he chose. They all offer pretty much the same.

So, investing money to save energy is pointless because consuming less puts him in a higher tariff zone and he'd pay a lot more per KWh. It never pays off. Now I wonder how big the total wasted potential for conservation is, simply because of minimum consumption clauses in these contracts. I can't even begin to guess a number, but this small gym uses - for lighting alone - as much electricity as five or six average households (I'd estimate > 20000 KWh/a), and more efficient lights could easily cut the consumption by half, or more. Multiply by the number of small businesses, shops, workshops etc. having the same problem, and suddenly the small amounts you can save in your average home seems almost negligible.

Does anyone here have some experience with that?


Where are you located, Zarquon? I've never seen that sort of thing in the US, although very large consumers of electricity like large factories may have contracts with producers, I doubt saving some energy would be a big issue.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Newfie » Fri 27 Jul 2018, 03:27:10

He is in the EU somewhere.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Fri 27 Jul 2018, 04:51:50

But he makes a valid point. Here in Silly Valley, school age kids are present in fewer and fewer numbers as years pass. So they are consolidating and closing schools, from pre-school to high school, and everything in between.

But the school still has lighting and HVAC contracts that continue until they end, even if the place is empty. Then things get even more absurb, because of some nebulous wealthy 'green" investor who is fronting the money for Solar PV at every school parking lot:
Image
...such as the 722kW solar array at my kid's former HS. This reportedly saves 30% of their power bill, while allowing shade to park under.

But now all the schools they are still using are built out for solar. But the solar contractor also has a contract, so he is continuing to build solar arrays at the empty schools no longer being used.

I find it absurb, but I'm actually OK with it. As an EE I understand that once an electron is added to the power grid, you can't tell whether it was made by Solar PV or coal. This week the SF Bay Area is uncharacteristicly 16 degrees cooler than average, due to an onshore breeze in the South Bay. Normally this stops around SF city, but this past few weeks has been 50 miles further S. So those extra electrons from those Solar PV installations in empty schools are being used by someone, possibly in S California or Arizona where they are having heat waves.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Fri 27 Jul 2018, 12:45:41

Zarquon's point is valid. In the modern world, ANY system that doesn't reward consumers (whether on the individual consumer or large industrial user) for saving energy is crazy.

Where power companies are regulated, such a 'disincentive to save power' scheme should NOT be allowed.

In the US, every example I see on Youtube, etc. of residential bills is that there are two or more tiers of power rates. And the rate gets much higher above a moderate to smallish amount, so there is a serious incentive to consume less power.

The main problem there is when being on the grid is MANDATED, even when a residence has plenty of off-grid power and batteries to manage without needing the grid. There still seems to be a lot of that going on. (And that could be managed in terms of a large hook-up fee if a resident changes their mind.

There should be ways of having rational incentives without screwing up either homeowners or the power companies. It might involve compromise.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby kublikhan » Sat 28 Jul 2018, 01:21:23

This is an old problem. Bigger customers get bigger discounts as they have more bargaining power. This problem can be partially offset using municipal aggregation - having a bunch of small customers combine together to give them the negotiating power of a larger customer. In the EU, this is taken to the extreme in the pharmaceutical market. To the point where there is only 1 buyer of pharmaceuticals for the entire country: a monopsony or buyer monopoly. In Illinois and other states in the US, we do this in the electricity markets.

The State of Illinois has enacted legislation which empowers municipalities with the right to negotiate electricity rates on behalf of its residents and small businesses located within its jurisdiction. Municipal aggregation uses the collective bargaining power of residents to negotiate lower electricity supply rates from alternative suppliers. This creates purchasing power and economies of scale resulting in electric prices much lower than any that an individual customer could get on their own.

Economic Benefits to Residents and Small Businesses
Once the referendum has passed and the community has had time to understand the program, a request for proposals will go out to find the lowest cost electricity supplier. After the most competitive supplier bid is received and a contract is signed, all eligible residents and small businesses are automatically enrolled in the aggregation program.

Electricity aggregation programs have significant impact on the local economy. Municipalities with lower electricity costs result in more disposable income for consumers. Less money spent on electricity will lower the cost of doing business in your community.

Others Are Saving, Why Not You?
We have demonstrated success in helping a dozen communities with their Aggregation Programs. Our strategic plan has been carefully designed to educate and raise awareness in the community so that voters clearly understand the benefits of Aggregation, increasing the probability that the referendum is passed.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Sat 28 Jul 2018, 15:33:51

Ghung – Similar situations exist throughout the US in one form or another. It has to do with the structure of public utility companies. In addition to customers being required to pay for 100% of the infrastructure cost (regardless of their individual consumption) they typically have to pay for a fixed profit margin. For instance when I lived in the country I had a well…no water service. But then the district water utility laid a line down my road. I was now charged a minimum $23/month regardless of my use. And it didn’t even matter if I didn’t tap into the line. Which I didn’t. I stayed on my well.

It’s called being part of society. Whether you wanted to be a part of that f*cking society or not. LOL.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Sat 28 Jul 2018, 15:49:20

ROCKMAN wrote:It’s called being part of society. Whether you wanted to be a part of that f*cking society or not. LOL.

Yes. Another example:

I don't have kids. I've never complained one bit about paying school taxes. Having a more educated populace helps me, plus it's the right thing to do.

There is a reasonable discussion to be had about how far / where this principle should extend, but being part of a society implies responsibilities, like paying your taxes. And let's just admit it -- such user fees for things like utilities are taxes by another name.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Peak_Yeast » Tue 07 Aug 2018, 15:54:50

In Denmark we have similar problems... I remember two examples:

1. Waste heat from electricity production was once promoted to be used as heating for residential houses and thus combined heat-electricity plants were constructed. Countless kms of insulated piping was burried and 1000s of houses received this waste heat. There was houses which afterwards got very good insulation and/or solar heating and was thus using much less than what "normal" houses did. They received the same bill as the others. The usage of heat was, of course, much less, but now their subscription increased to make up for the savings in energy. Thus the people who were interested in the environment saved not a single cent.

2. Waste heat from industrial production /offices. A number of companies tried to give away the waste heat from their production - for example to heat residential housing or perhaps for heating nearby stores. These companies were later taxed - since it was illegal to give away something of value without reasonable payment. Because of the level of the taxation the companies actually paid a lot of money to give away free waste heat - and logically stopped it.

3. Some shop have waste ready made food leftovers which they then donated to poor people.
As in case 2 they were taxed for giving away free food and thus it had to end. Thus the food goes to landfills instead.

What a hell all those clever politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats has made. I would gladly strangle those responsible for these results.
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Re: Being punished for saving energy

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 07 Aug 2018, 16:36:21

Peak_Yeast wrote:In Denmark we have similar problems... I remember two examples:

1. Waste heat from electricity production was once promoted to be used as heating for residential houses and thus combined heat-electricity plants were constructed. Countless kms of insulated piping was burried and 1000s of houses received this waste heat. There was houses which afterwards got very good insulation and/or solar heating and was thus using much less than what "normal" houses did. They received the same bill as the others. The usage of heat was, of course, much less, but now their subscription increased to make up for the savings in energy. Thus the people who were interested in the environment saved not a single cent.

2. Waste heat from industrial production /offices. A number of companies tried to give away the waste heat from their production - for example to heat residential housing or perhaps for heating nearby stores. These companies were later taxed - since it was illegal to give away something of value without reasonable payment. Because of the level of the taxation the companies actually paid a lot of money to give away free waste heat - and logically stopped it.

3. Some shop have waste ready made food leftovers which they then donated to poor people.
As in case 2 they were taxed for giving away free food and thus it had to end. Thus the food goes to landfills instead.

What a hell all those clever politicians, lawyers and bureaucrats has made. I would gladly strangle those responsible for these results.

Very interesting. So it sounds like there are some unpleasant side effects to both a relatively highly capitalistic market system, like the US, AND a more socialistic mix of capitalism like in Denmark, re people (or companies) trying to do the "right thing" re saving energy.

In both cases, it sounds like laws set up to meet the "needs" of the state, whether the wrong kinds of favors (i.e. for US utilities) or for a too strongly entrenched desire to collect all taxes possible (for Denmark).

It might be fair to say these are unintended consequences, but in a world beset by AGW, they most certainly should be FIXED. Saving (or not wasting) energy should be in EVERYONE's interest economically.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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