The Greenest Electron

I am thrilled by this quote in an article on building energy efficient buildings:

“The greenest electron is the one you never use,” said Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, based in Knoxville, Tenn.

Yes! So why are so many “environmentalists” opposed to market-based pricing of electricity? If you let them, prices contain the information that enables a consumer to decide whether it’s worth it to them individually to use the energy at that time or wait. And if prices reflect scarcity and the actual cost of bringing additional electricity to market, having those price signals can reduce overall energy use.

Huh? you say … aren’t you just time shifting, not actually reducing use? Here’s the cool thing: even if all the retail consumers are doing is shifting their use away from expensive (i.e., peak) hours to cheaper ones but still use the same number of kilowatt hours, the production of the electricity is likely to require less energy input. Peaker plants that start up more quickly are more expensive to operate and tend to use more fuel per kilowatt hour of electricity produced, so time shifting reduces overall energy use in production of electricity.

Just one example of the many complex interactions that market processes enable, and regulatory processes cannot replicate. And it illustrates the alignment of economic incentives and environmental incentives (insert standard comment on property rights and rule of law here).