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It works: energy conservation in action

lightsWe all know what the most powerful tool is in the fight against global warming: energy conservation. The IEA and other agencies have shown in numerous studies just how much better off we all could be if businesses and consumers took some practical steps to curb their demand–and they would also benefit too, in the form of reduced energy bills.

In the US, however, some utilities have taken a step further, by providing direct incentives to their customers to cut their own usage. It’s a counter-intuitive step, in the sense that they’re asking their customers to spend less with them, but when you understand that the grid is straining at the seams, it all starts to make more sense. More importantly, the utility firms are willing to invest in their customers consumption reduction, providing that option costs less than building new power plants or expanding the grid–as the WSJ notes:

The clear trend in many areas is to pay companies and other consumers sums pegged to what it would cost utilities or grid officials to acquire equivalent amounts of power on the open market or to build and operate new power plants. In the mid-Atlantic region, payments arranged by the grid operator to firms that have cut energy use are running ahead of last year, $19.3 million through July 31 versus $18.3 million for 2006 and $14.9 million for 2005.

These incentives to customers take a number of forms, from the energy orb that some utilities provide customers to providing more efficient lighting systems–or just lower rates in exchange for less consumption. What’s exciting though, is to see that these steps are working:

In New England, businesses this year have agreed to cut electricity use by 1,222 megawatts when called upon, twice as much as last year. In California, where the second heat wave of the summer season sputtered out Wednesday after causing as many as 25 deaths, grid officials said calls to the public to reduce electricity consumption proved effective. A plea Aug. 30, a day of very tight supplies, resulted in 1,000 megawatts of conservation, an amount equal to the output of two large power plants.

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