If you were to ask most forward-thinking Americans to name a disruptive challenge we face today, global warming would be high on the list. Climate-changing levels of carbon dioxide have been released into the air and the impacts on weather, on raising ocean levels, and melting glaciers are underway. The most socially responsible among us are already reducing their carbon footprint by recycling, buying more efficient cars, better insulating their homes, buying Energy Star appliances, using florescent or LED lighting. More and more people are also taking advantage of government incentive programs to install rooftop solar or wind power-generation systems.
The impact from these early pioneers of change is still quite small relative to the problem, but it is significant. So significant, in fact, that the industries that release carbon dioxide to produce the energy we buy are feeling threatened. After all, every time you replace an incandescent light bulb with an LED bulb you reduce their revenue.
Our power generation and distribution companies can adapt by getting into the LED lighting business, for example, or they can maladapt by killing government regulations and initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. It appears they have chosen to do both. Some energy companies are investing in wind, solar, or other renewable energy technologies while others are busy hatching plans to manipulate the democratic process in order to scuttle government incentives and regulations that threaten their bottom line.
When the power-generation utilities think about the disruptive challenges we face as a nation they quite literally see a mirror image of what the rest of us see. The threats they see include "demand-side management" (DSM), which refers to consumer energy-conservation measures, and "distributed-energy resources" (DER), meaning residential power generation such as rooftop-solar systems. This is explained in an national industry report released this past January by the Edison Electric Institute. Entitled "Disruptive Challenges, Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business," the report describes how disruptive consumer conservation and residential-energy generation can be to their business. To help electric-utility executives better understand the disruptive forces of socially responsible citizens it offers this useful flow chart: [http://tinyurl.com/m5py4rg]
"Demand-side management involves reducing electricity use through activities or programs that promote electric energy efficiency or conservation, or more efficient management of electric energy loads. These efforts may":
- Promote high efficiency building practices
- Promote the purchase of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products
- Encourage the transition from incandescent lighting to more
efficient compact-fluorescent lighting
- Encourage customers to shift non-critical usage of electricity from
high-use periods to after 7 p.m. or before 11 a.m.
- Consist of programs providing limited utility control of customer
equipment such as air conditioners
- Promote energy awareness and education
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