Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Blog: Virtue Can be its Own Reward

Minor note.  I just received the NYSEG bill for a month of heating and powering our Victorian farmhouse in upstate New York, with 100% renewable electricity in the middle of winter: $429.36.  Out of curiosity, I went back and looked at our bills from the same time last year, when we paid to heat and power a similar aged (1880) almost identical sized rental house in Sausalito, California: $462.11.

In Sausalito, the bill was for about half natural gas and half electricity of whatever provenance PG&E chose to provide (ie mostly not renewable).  Here the electricity is supplied by Sterling Planet via Agway Electric, and delivered by NYSEG.

The main difference is that the house here, having been owner occupied, is insulated to a more-or-less average contemporary standard, whereas the rental house in Sausalito was not (presumably because the landlords had had no incentive to do so).  Also, electricity here is somewhat cheaper than in the Bay Area.  These effects are enough to more than overcome the difference between about 3000 degree days and about 8000 degree days, as well as the premium for renewable power.

My smugness knows no bounds following this bill :-)

11 comments:

JCamasto said...

Ouch! That's almost halfway to my annual gas/elec/water bill, combined! (1976 stick construction, chicago burbs, 1500SF, PV and ST retrofitted).

Stuart Staniford said...

Yeah, right - I'll get there :-) I don't even have my woodstove in yet. I was just struck by the fact that doing something obviously nuts - heating a house in a cold climate entirely with resistive heat from electricity - was *still* cheaper than my situation before.

alex said...

That's several times more than people pay in winter... in Canada!

Mr. Sunshine said...

Just got my electric bill for Dec 2010 ... $149, less $97 paid for overproduction of local power here last year, not used before 12/31. December was the first bill we got since Jan 2010. All local solar and hydro power here, running the home and office, with electric heat, stove and dryer - though Dec and Jan are pretty cold in the mountains, so we buy a bit :)

It's great, isn't it?

Stuart Staniford said...

Mr Sunshine:

How much solar/hydro do you have?

Stuart Staniford said...

So, this exchange has set me thinking. Obviously, this month's bill is just a baseline - I just got the house and it's basically exactly as the previous owners had it except for not using the coal stove at all.

There's plenty of obvious low hanging fruit. There is insulation in the walls and the roof, and storm windows outside the old sashes, but there are obvious drafts coming in many of the windows and doors, etc. I will install the wood stove as soon as we've had the floors redone, etc.

However, there's a contradiction here now that I'm buying 100% renewable power on the commercial market. To the extent that I would like society to convert to renewable power (and I very much would!), aren't I sending the strongest market signal to the providers by buying *more* of it? To the extent I make my family's usage more efficient, I'm basically becoming a less good customer for New York's wind and small hydro plants. So should I bother taking steps to reduce my bills? At least at this stage of things?

Fixed Carbon said...

Stuart: your bill in California was influenced by "decoupling," where the profits of regulated utilities such as PG&E are tied to efficiency as much as (more than?) to the amount of electricity that they sell. Is New York a "decoupling" state?
www.theatlantic.com—7666

JCamasto said...

I doubt your individual market signal can be discerned above background. I'd say, keep supporting your RE power producers, until you become one yourself. Then the next string of people will support you via SRECs. (uh, oh - this is sounding like pyramid (scheme) power...!)

Resource efficiency is a good strategy for you/family/local group - but when scaled large enough, we get Jevon's paradox...

brett said...

If you have disposable income and want to encourage renewable energy, why not invest directly in some project in your region that can bring more power online?

Once a renewable project is up and running, all of its output is going to be consumed, regardless of whether people are buying it as green or regular. (Right? they're not going to idle a wind or solar farm and burn NG or coal instead, at least for cost reasons.)

Mr. Sunshine said...

Stuart,

I have 7kW of 240VAC inverter on 9kW/hr of battery, which serves as a 'flywheel' for 2kW solar PV and a 10" throat, 1.5kW low head (7' net head @ ~4CFS flow) Francis turbine pico hydro system. Total production is ~42kW hours per day. We also have solar DHW and make use of passive solar space heating...

kjmclark said...

I'm going to step slightly out of line here for a second. You're going to get hit pretty hard by this snowstorm this week. NOAA's prediction center (http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/wwd/day2_psnow_gt_12.gif) shows a high probability of you getting hit by greater than 12 inches of snow. Hopefully this won't happen to you, but we had a severely sprained ankle and another broken ankle in our family last winter, going for a walk and separately a run on nice wintry days.

If you get snowed in, and find yourself needing to go to a hospital, which vehicle are you going to use to get there?