Energy Monopoly: Less Is Not More
Show-Me Policy Pulse cited an AP article that appeared in the Kansas City Star on Sunday about the “energy efficiency” charge that would be added to energy bills beginning in August if the governor signs pending legislation authorizing the charge. The new fee was designed to fund energy-conservation initiatives by utilities like AmerenUE:
For example, the commission last week approved a program in which St. Louis-based AmerenUE can offer credits to businesses that voluntarily shut down or scale back their electricity use during peak demand. AmerenUE will be able to recoup the cost for the program that starts Thursday by increasing the rates it charges business customers.
Instead of providing more efficient or environmentally friendly energy, this program would cost most consumers more money in order for utilities to provide less energy. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem: As Missouri’s population grows, and our economy produces more, we will need more energy — or a more efficient way of getting energy. If the state insists on instituting some sort of environmental energy cap or tax, it would make more sense for the program to focus on increasing efficiency in energy production and fostering alternative energy sources.
The program currently under consideration would add 3 percent to energy bills in order to fund what amounts to education efforts, and utilities would remotely control some aspects of participating customers’ energy usage, such as air conditioning. From the article:
One of the company’s more popular energy-saving initiatives has provided free programmable thermostats to about 34,000 residential customers in Missouri and Kansas. [Kansas City Power & Light] can remotely control the devices to reduce the frequency at which air conditioners run during peak demand times. The power company overrode customers’ air conditioners four times last year and twice so far this summer, [KCP&L’s senior director of public affairs] said.
A better solution would involve a way for companies to choose to buy green or more efficient energy from a competing company. Deregulating the energy monopoly would force utilities to become more efficient themselves, or give way to more efficient competitors. This competitive process should be encouraged here, rather than just paying existing utilities more to produce less.