I’ve been reading a few articles in Business Week and Electrical Wholesaling recently. President Barack Obama granted a $787 billion stimulus package to subsidize the purchase of new technologies by utilities throughout the country with the idea to “make our energy bills lower, make outages less likely, and make it easier to use clean energy.”

There are a few concerns that come to mind in no particular order. First being potential of handing over much more control to the utilities to change electricity prices at will. For example, on a hot summer day when most people will crank up their air conditioning the utility uses its flexibility to increase the rates for whatever community with rising demand. This is purely a speculation that the utility may adjust rates as such to make addition money off consumers.

A second debatable concern is the smart meter. The new smart meter would be installed on customer’s homes to replace the old models which relay electricity use and price information to consumers. This doesn’t sound too bad, right? The meter can also gather usage wirelessly without trucks or meter readers. No person trampling your roses to get a meter reading sounds like a positive but it could also lead to more layoffs for many. A possible positive of the smart meter may be that in time we will learn to use our energy more efficiently if the utility increases their rates during high demand times due to the real time reporting.

Thirdly, there is always apprehension when it comes to spending more money, especially now during a recession. According to one of the
Business Week articles I read, states will have three options for introducing flexible pricing to customers. It can be mandatory, it can be the default with an opt-out or it can be a voluntary opt-in program. We’ll just have to wait and see how this truly affects consumer’s wallets. Just be prepared that you might have to shell out the initial cash to purchase the smart meter too! You never know!

On the flipside to all of these concerns, upgrading our country’s network of transmission-line technology is sorely needed. As with many other infrastructure components (like bridges), we are outgrowing and running existing structures into the ground faster than we can, or will, repair them. Upgrading this system will certainly help power the future in much more efficient ways, and present more green opportunities for energy and sustainability.

In honor of Earth Day, if you live in a test community that is, or will be, part of the pilot, give it a chance! Turn off your electronics, save some energy, plant a tree, clean up debris along side of the road or turn in your recyclables to help out Mother Earth!
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Tina Lamanna

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