Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lights on During Earth Hour? Check your Utility Bill

Homeowners who turned on all their lights and electrical appliances in protest of Earth Hour last week may be in for a mildly rude surprise on next month's utility bill. Utilities in several nations including the U.S. are metering electricity used during their respective Earth Hours at three times the peak-use rate as part of a load test of the International Conservation Society's "peak-peak" initiative.

The peak rate model, which has already been adopted for trial periods in several EC countries, would charge higher- than-peak electric rates, or "peak-peak" rates to users during large spikes in energy demand whether during peak or off-peak periods. The goal is not to discourage energy use, but to more fairly apportion charges for those who use the most energy during peak or off-peak demand, according to the Bern-based organization.

Some have called Saturday's hour-long "peak-peak" test a punitive tax on consumers who elected to exercise their free speech by turning on all of their lighting and appliances on during Earth Hour instead of off as encouraged each year by the event's organizer, the World Wide Fund for Nature.

"If this isn't a punitive stunt, why this hour – exactly "Earth Hour" instead of three in the morning?" asked conservative talk show host Glenn Beck.

Others echoed Beck's sentiment.

"The hit on my electric bill for an hour of every light in the house on probably won't be more than a few bucks, said Rob Holtz of Denton, Texas, who proudly burned every light both in and outside his home during Earth Hour in addition to blasting his stereo.

"But I'm angry that someone planned a specific hour-long hike to punish people like me."

Randall Carr of American Electric Power, which serves 11 states in the eastern U.S., denies that Earth Hour was targeted for the "peak-peak" billing test to sting those who turned all their power on instead of off.

"It never occurred to us that some people would use more power than usual during this time," said Carr. "We thought running the billing sample during Earth Hour would result in the least amount of impact on our customers."

The concern over "peak-peak" billing during Earth Hour is "probably overblown," said Carr. For the average homeowner, "figure under a dollar," Carr said.



It's about time I started an internet chainmail rumor designed to rankle (I love the word "rankle") the kind of people who forward made-up chainmail news stories. Many of them probably did turn all their lights and appliances on for Earth Hour, so let's have fun. Please forward this breaking news story to every half-wit you know in honor of this hallowed first day of April.

-- TCC

More April 1 News: New York Times Fires Editors, Hires Chimps

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