Are Xcel’s let­ters com­par­ing neigh­bors’ en­ergy usage ap­pro­pri­ate?

The Denver Post - - OPINION - Re: Liz Wolf­son, Rus­sell Durl­ing, Howard Geller,

“‘Neigh­bors’ in­volved in Xcel pro­gram can be as far as 2 miles from each other,” Dec. 27 news story.

Your ar­ti­cle about Xcel En­ergy send­ing let­ters re­gard­ing usage com­par­isons raises many is­sues. While we all have to learn to be more aware of en­ergy con­ser­va­tion, the let­ters are in­tim­i­dat­ing and tell us noth­ing other than to chas­tise. Xcel does not dis­close the address of the com­par­i­son home, nor does Xcel know any­thing about the oc­cu­pancy cir­cum­stances — how many peo­ple live in the home, med­i­cal de­vices, elec­tric ve­hi­cle recharge ports, va­ca­tion times, and on and on.

Xcel is a for-profit busi­ness that would prob­a­bly go to the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion and ask for rate hikes if there was a sud­den or con­tin­u­ous re­duc­tion in usage. So what is the point of their let­ter?

Sev­eral years ago the Den­ver Wa­ter Board plas­tered the city with bill­boards and signs show­ing a hu­man brain, a cow brain, and a sup­posed grass brain at the cost of mil­lions of dol­lars. The point was the grass brain was so small it would not know if it received a lit­tle less wa­ter. It rained ev­ery day from April un­til mid-Au­gust, and wa­ter con­sump­tion dra­mat­i­cally de­clined. In Septem­ber, Den­ver Wa­ter went to the PUC for a rate hike re­quest — which we are still pay­ing.


BBB I am one the “most ef­fi­cient neigh­bors.” Although some­one oc­ca­sion­ally edges me out in elec­tri­cal usage, no one comes even close to my gas (heat and hot wa­ter) usage; so month after month I am the most ef­fi­cient neigh­bor.

I am very proud of this distinc­tion be­cause I have ac­com­plished this to­tally through en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency retrofits with­out hav­ing to use any al­ter­na­tive en­ergy re­sources.

We read with in­ter­est your story about the re­ports that Xcel En­ergy sends cus­tomers com­par­ing their own en­ergy use to that of sim­i­lar neigh­bors. The re­ports aren’t meant to shame cus­tomers who might use more en­ergy than their neigh­bors, but in­stead are meant to help con­sumers con­sider tak­ing sim­ple ef­fi­ciency steps: chang­ing to LED light bulbs, turn­ing down their clothes washer’s tem­per­a­ture set­tings or un­plug­ging phone charg­ers and the like when not in use.

In 2015, the pro­gram mo­ti­vated Xcel En­ergy’s cus­tomers to save an im­pres­sive 29 mil­lion kilo­watt-hours of elec­tric­ity. All the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency pro­grams that Xcel En­ergy im­ple­mented in 2015 com­bined helped house­holds and busi­nesses save 406 mil­lion kilo­watt-hours of elec­tric­ity, re­duc­ing elec­tric bills by about $40 mil­lion per year. This en­ergy sav­ings means less fos­sil-fuel burn­ing, cleaner air for all of us, as well as lower bills for con­sumers and busi­nesses. There’s cer­tainly no shame in any of that.

Boul­der The writer is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the South­west En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Project. Send let­ters of 150 words or fewer to open­fo­rum@den­ver­ or 101 W. Col­fax Ave., Suite 800, Den­ver, CO, 80202. Please in­clude full name, city and phone num­ber. Con­tact us at 303-954-1331.

Xcel reg­u­larly sends let­ters to many of its cus­tomers com­par­ing their en­ergy usage to that of their neigh­bors.

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