12 July 2008

Turn out that light!

The thieves at Progress Energy are building a new nuclear power plant in Levy County, Florida. Hurray and it's about time the US started building nuclear plants again.

Before you start huffing and puffing about radioactivity, I'd recommend that you read up on exactly what radiation is. "Radioactive" has been turned into an irrationally, emotionally laden term with nearly the same attendant hysteria as has the word "chemical." It kills me. A lot of people hear the word radioactive and see a mushroom cloud yet ignore the sun blasting away overhead and think nothing of getting into an airplane. Similarly, chemicals in consumer products are somehow always a bad thing; but newsflash, water is a chemical.

OK, now that I have that off my chest, back to the thieves at Progress Energy and their much-needed nuclear plant. Progress Energy estimated that the new plant in Levy County will cost 17 billion dollars to build. Yes, that's billion with a "B." Staggering cost, yes but where it gets interesting is that due to a two-year-old Florida law, utilities are allowed to pre-bill their customers for infrastructure improvements. When these costs started to trickle out to the public last winter, Progress Energy estimated that it would start charging a $9 a month surcharge in January '09 (on top of their recent rate increases) to pay for the new plant years before anyone starts shoveling dirt. Now, citing "confidentiality agreements" in their quest to find a builder, Progress Energy has declined to put a number on that surcharge as they seek permission to charge it from the Public Service Commission. They are asking for a blank check and they just might get it. Argh!

My beloved St. Pete Times has been on this like a hawk and bravo for the St. Pete Times! Call the Public Service Commission and your state legislators. This is a bad idea brought about by typically bad legislation. One party rule is a terrible, terrible thing.

Before I start hollering any more about this blatant thievery and getting my blood pressure up even higher, there is a way you can offset whatever January's construction surcharge ends up being. Swapping out incandescent light bulbs for less-energy-hogging compact fluorescent bulbs is an easy one. You can also lower the temperature on your water heater, set your thermostat a degree or two higher and on and on. But what about the things I do that I'd always been told used less electricity? I leave my AC on 24 hours a day and just raise the thermostat to 80 degrees when I leave in the morning. I've always been told that doing that is more energy efficient than turning it off when I leave. Well, it turns out that that little pearl of conventional wisdom is wrong.
The kids at Treehugger ran a piece yesterday on energy savings and it tackled such efficiency conundra as the turn-off-the-AC or not question and others that vex people like me. Treehugger's entry included a link to a website called Mr. Electricity.
Mr. Electricity is the brainchild of an efficiency fanatic named Michael Bluejay and readers of this blog would do well to spend some time poking around on his site. The man anticipates and answers almost any question you might have and presents everything in an entertaining and engaging style. He explains everything from how to read a manufacturer's labels to how to read your own electric meter. Once everything's explained, he'll show you how to apply it to how your bottom line. Seriously, check this out and save some money.

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