In 2009, at a U.S. committee hearing on renewable energy, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas suggested wind is a finite resource, and that turbines might “slow down” air movement and make temperatures rise.
More recently, a retired science teacher in North Carolina stood up at a public meeting and complained a town plan to install more solar panels would steal the sun’s energy away from nearby plants.
Few of us are this naive about how energy really works.
But most of us are still mystified at how the power company calculates our monthly bills.
That became evident here when a letter recently published in The Telegram garnered dozens of responses from kindred spirits.
The primary questions: why is it - when you’re making efforts to turn appliances down and even off to preserve energy - your bill can actually go up?
In answer, The Telegram’s Ashley Fitzpatrick contacted Newfoundland Power for the straight goods. Her story appeared in last Tuesday’s Telegram.
The vast majority of queries about power bills occur in the winter.
Bills might go up for a variety of reasons. It could be that leaving the house for an extended period with only a heater or two on low won’t produce the desired result. Heaters in rooms that aren’t closed off may end up working overtime to heat other sections of the house, thereby defeating the purpose.
Other factors, such as lighting, cooking and even body heat contribute to keeping a house warm.
More often, however, the reason for an unexpectedly high bill is that usage for that household was estimated.
Meter readers don’t get to every property each month. Often the bill is estimated, and may continue to be until the next time a physical reading is taken. At that point, the company will adjust the next bill to account for inaccurate estimates.
The most important message from Newfoundland Power, however, is this: ask.
That’s right. Call them and ask. And don’t just assume they are in the wrong and just trying to gouge you. Often there’s a simple answer.
Even when there isn’t, they are willing to send someone to your house to investigate and offer explanations.
One more thing: as Muskrat Falls comes on stream and prices continue to soar - as predicted - there are bound to be more and more queries about bills.
More than ever, this is one time when cool, calm heads - and clear answers - are crucial.
Call them and ask. And don’t just assume they are in the wrong and just trying to gouge you. Often there’s a simple answer.