Sad Socket: Galvin Electricity Initiative’s New Ad

Lynne Kiesling

Have you seen the Galvin Electricity Initiative Sad Socket ad?

In the half-century since our electric power system was completed, little has been done to update it — and it shows. We’re relying on an obsolete electricity grid that is dangerously vulnerable, even to forces as predictable as thunderstorms and as tiny as squirrels. And blackouts and power interruptions cost public facilities, businesses and households at least $150 billion a year. Power plants generate as much pollution as they do electricity, and then two-thirds of this energy is lost before it ever reaches the end-user. Meanwhile, consumers are no more than passive participants without real choice. [emphasis added]

The technology already exists to address these unhappy circumstances, save you money, improve the quality of electricity service and give you control.

But regulatory policies stand in the way of progress.

The Galvin Initiative’s website suggests five things you can do to help accelerate the transformation of the electric power network:

1. Use the power of the purse
2. Demand control — by federal law, your utility is required to provide you with a time-of-use rate and an enabling meter. Call them and ask for it!
3. Call for policy change — write your elected representatives
4. Use less power
5. Share your business story with the Galvin Initiative, to show how widespread and dispersed the inefficiency of the existing electric power network is


8 thoughts on “Sad Socket: Galvin Electricity Initiative’s New Ad

  1. Demand control — by federal law, your utility is required to provide you with a time-of-use rate and an enabling meter. Call them and ask for it!

    Interesting. Has Lynne or anyone else on this site found this option in the rate case of their utility?

    I’ve gone through my utility’s rate case (NIPSCO) and did not see anything on real time pricing.

  2. Buzz, that’s why you have to call them and request it!

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, passed in December, does two things that are material here:

    1. It makes it national stated policy that retail customers should have this kind of choice (and that the country will follow a smart grid strategy)

    2. It stipulates specifically, in Section 1306 I believe, that utilities are required to provide time-of-use rates and enabling technologies to all customers who request them. This requirement builds on the legislative foundation established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which required all states to investigate the extent of demand response and dynamic pricing in their state and the feasibility of implementing it.

  3. “Power plants generate as much pollution as they do electricity.”

    Pardon me?

    Units of pollution = weight or volume
    Units of electricity = watt-hours

    You want to tell me how those two equate?

  4. I realize this is beside the point, but I have to pick at that ad a bit. Aside from the fact that there isn’t really a way to compare amounts of “electricity” and “pollution,” the implied chronology is misleading concerning energy loss. It implies that first we generate electricity and then we lose two-thirds of it. It is true that steam plants lose a large portion of the heat energy that goes into them in the form of fuel, but it is lost in the thermal processes before the electricity is generated. The generation of electricity from the force applied by the turbine is quite efficient, and transmission losses are are a small portion of energy transmitted as well.

  5. I hope Galvin’s effort has some effect. In some states, utility commissions have cited a lack of interest among customers as a primary reason for deferring on the EPAct smart metering standards. (Personally I’d like to know what customers _are_ interested in, if it’s not transparent pricing and control over their energy bills. But whatever …)

    I doubt Galvin will start any kind of consumer uprising, but he is sending an interesting shot across the bow of the old-guard utility industry.

    -MTB

  6. Lynne:

    I don’t know if you’re involved with this group or not, but if you are, could you tell them that using the sort of hyperbolic and misleading rhetoric pointed out by Doug and/or D.O.U.G. only brings disrepute to your cause.

    Does Galvin want to be taken seriously, or merely generate publicity for himself? The tone and style of this ad makes me inclined to place him in the same bin as the global-warming and peak-oil alarmist crackpots.

  7. A savvy residential customer will notice that he tends to use more power in the early afternoon, when wholesale electricity prices are highest, and a lot less overnight, when electricity prices are lowest. He then notes how expensive it would be to install the automatic monitoring equipment needed to turn off his AC/heat/lights/whatever when power prices rise, given that he will be watching TV/sleeping/at work/cooking dinner at the time, and so won’t be monitoring prices on his own initiative. He draws the (correct) conclusion that time of use pricing will not benefit him, and probably will not benefit virtually all residential customers. If someone tries to impose TOU pricing on him, he will be unhappy, and he certainly isn’t going to actively pursue it. These customers are maybe 10% of the class.

    The less savvy residential customer will just note that he doesn’t want to be bothered, that he just wants a simple, stable electricity price, and may even view TOU as a way to ‘stick it’ to those customers who don’t have the means to install the expensive hardware needed to let them respond to TOU prices in a reasonable manner. This is a large minority of the residential customers.

    The least savvy residential customer just wants the government regulators to protect him from the utilities through regulated rates and doesn’t want to be bothered with having to ‘choose’ anything related to basic utility service. This is, from my experience, over half of the customers. (For example, the half of customers who, in Texas, haven’t switched retail provider even though they can save hundreds per year risk free by doing so.)

    The only customers who will ever actively seek out TOU pricing are those business customers with dispatchable load and electricity costs which are a significant share of business costs. Some big office buildings may be able to use it on a limited basis, and industries where the production facilities can be turned off, or which have their own distributed generation, will love it. For your average retail customer, it is a nightmare of potential confusion and bother to no good advantage.

  8. A savvy residential customer will notice that he tends to use more power in the early afternoon, when wholesale electricity prices are highest, and a lot less overnight, when electricity prices are lowest. He then notes how expensive it would be to install the automatic monitoring equipment needed to turn off his AC/heat/lights/whatever when power prices rise, given that he will be watching TV/sleeping/at work/cooking dinner at the time, and so won’t be monitoring prices on his own initiative. He draws the (correct) conclusion that time of use pricing will not benefit him, and probably will not benefit virtually all residential customers. If someone tries to impose TOU pricing on him, he will be unhappy, and he certainly isn’t going to actively pursue it. These customers are maybe 10% of the class.

    The less savvy residential customer will just note that he doesn’t want to be bothered, that he just wants a simple, stable electricity price, and may even view TOU as a way to ‘stick it’ to those customers who don’t have the means to install the expensive hardware needed to let them respond to TOU prices in a reasonable manner. This is a large minority of the residential customers.

    The least savvy residential customer just wants the government regulators to protect him from the utilities through regulated rates and doesn’t want to be bothered with having to ‘choose’ anything related to basic utility service. This is, from my experience, over half of the customers. (For example, the half of customers who, in Texas, haven’t switched retail provider even though they can save hundreds per year risk free by doing so.)

    The only customers who will ever actively seek out TOU pricing are those business customers with dispatchable load and electricity costs which are a significant share of business costs. Some big office buildings may be able to use it on a limited basis, and industries where the production facilities can be turned off, or which have their own distributed generation, will love it. For your average retail customer, it is a nightmare of potential confusion and bother to no good advantage.

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