Man, this was a looooong time ago…
The title of this post, and then subsequently this song popped into my head as I read about what happened in Texas recently.
Well, what happened in Texas, Goldie?
The electric company tried to turn people into BBQ.
*insert collective gasps*
First, a back story:
A few years ago, I received a letter from the electric company announcing that I could save some money by not using as much energy during peak times as I normally did (based on my historical usage). On days that they expected to be really warm, they would send me a text in the morning, informing me of the specific hours that I would have to use the air conditioning (AC) less in order to be paid. Yes, for every little bit of energy that I saved, they paid me a couple of pennies (deducted from my bill). At first, I thought it was a scam. “THEY are going to pay ME?” It sounded too good to be true. However, I decided to give it a try. All I had to do was sign up. Afterward, I could either follow their recommendations and save…, or not, which I thought was perfect for someone who was not sure about the program.
The text messages announcing the savings times happened rather rarely and they did not seem to impact me much (they either occurred when I was at work, or when I did not mind being a degree or two warmer). They sent me messages letting me know how much I “earned” quite regularly, which was meant to motivate me to save even more. Overall, I did not find anything negative about it, but I also did not earn/ save enough to think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I think it was a pilot project because I do not remember doing it the following year. (Unless it was when I moved… I cannot be sure. My memory is not as it used to be.)
I remember having a coworker who opted in to have their bills balanced throughout the year. What do I mean by that? Well, in most households, you use electricity (mainly AC) much more during summer than you do during winter (unless your heating is electric, too), which means that you pay less during wintertime, but might end up paying a lot more during summer. For some, the summer spikes can be difficult on their bank accounts, so they choose to spread it out more evenly and enroll with the electric company to pay a bit more during winter months and a bit less during the summer. To me, it sounds a bit like poor finance management, but different things work for different people.
Just a couple of months ago, I received a letter from my electric company informing me that I could save some money on my bill. Excited, I read through the terms and conditions. After looking at the numbers, I found out that yes, I could save some money if I used less electricity during certain times, but, I could also end up paying more money than I normally would if I used more electricity during specific times if I was not careful. I was not willing to sign up for that. There was no way I was going to print out a schedule and hang it up on the fridge to know when I needed to shut off the electricity in order to not incur colossal charges. But again, it might be a program that could prove beneficial for some. I guess I am just not that green. Especially since I have been working from home this past year or so.
Back on topic now:
In Texas, an electric company adjusted people’s thermostats remotely, having some of the citizens wake up sweating profusely, wondering what was going on. When they got up to check the thermostat, it read 78F (25.5C). For me, it is the perfect temperature to be out and about but waking up to that might be a bit much. How did this happen? Those people supposedly enrolled in a program the likes of what I described earlier to save on their energy bills. I looked through the Q&A page for this initiative on the EnrollMyThermostat website but was unable to find out if those people were ever warned when the “savings” time would occur like I did years ago, or if they were totally unaware of it.
Knowing my fellow Americans, I am sure that some of them enrolled in the program without reading the fine print or really thinking it through. But, what I choose to focus on are the “Smart” thermostats, which you can control from anywhere. It is awesome if you can change the temperature at home as you are leaving the office so that you get back to the house the temperature is nice and cool. But do you know what is NOT awesome? Having someone hack your thermostat to a point where you roast.
When I mention things like this, most people look at me like I am the worst conspiracy theorist ever. “This will never happen,” they say. “Why would anyone do that?” they ask, smirking. You think that until you see it on the news. Sooner or later, someone WILL do it. Or, the mechanism will somehow malfunction and set you on fire while claiming that it was YOUR choice.
We already have electric companies manipulating temperatures in our homes! I guess that could help people like me who do not want to have to track all those low and high-priced hours. “They do it for you!” “How fantastic!” No. No, thank you. I would rather pay a few cents more or even track it myself instead of giving someone the ability to either freeze or boil me at will.
- Have you ever participated in an energy-saving program?
- Do you have a smart thermostat? If yes, then what made you get it? If no, would you ever get it, and why?
- Is 78F warm, cold, or just right in your book?
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