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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Same power, higher prices

Written March 28th, 2014 by Hasso Hering

100_0512As it does once a year, Pacific Power has again reminded its customers that they can pay more for electricity if they wish. Why anyone would wish to do so is hard to imagine. But some people evidently choose the more expensive options, thinking they are doing the environment a favor. But are they really?

What Pacific calls “basic service” is the least expensive. If you want to pay more, for a slight surcharge you can buy the “Blue Sky Block” service, advertised to include a higher percentage of power from wind turbines.

For a few dollars more, you can sign up for “Blue Sky Usage,” which supposedly supplies 74 percent of your power from windmills and most of the rest from “biomass.” If you do this, the power company wants you to think none of your power — zero — involves the burning of coal.

Or you can go completely green, pay a little more yet and get all your power from wind, biomass and solar. No coal, no hydro, no burning of natural gas.

Now, the least expensive basic service includes all the supply sources that feed Pacific’s system: 61 percent coal, 7 percent hydro, 8 percent wind, 13 percent natural gas, and less than 1 percent each of biomass, geothermal and solar, with not quite 11 percent coming from “other” sources. That’s the energy mix that all Pacific customers get when they flip on a switch.

It baffles me how the utility can persuade people that if they pay more, none of their power will come from coal. If burning coal was banned tomorrow, even the no-coal, Blue Sky Habitat customers would be in the dark along with the rest of us. Until they find a way to direct particular electrons to only certain customers, charging higher rates for more green-sounding energy supplies sounds  like a marketing scheme to get people to pay more for exactly the same juice (hh)



15 responses to “Same power, higher prices”

  1. Craig Ziegenhagel says:

    It would not surprise me for a moment if they have to make this offer by law…that is to offer the option of a higher rate to (in effect) promote wind energy, biomass and solar. After all that is what the Federal and some State Governments are doing even though these venues are, at this moment, a failure. It makes the liberals feel all good inside when they can pay more for something that they think is working but in reallity is not.

  2. Bob Woods says:

    OK, both of you need to go to your bed without supper. Hasso for not doing basic research, and Craig for attacking folks for being altruistic with their own money. Here is what Pacific Power ACTUALLY says on their website:

    “When you enroll, Pacific Power purchases renewable energy certificates from newly developed renewable energy facilities. The electricity from these facilities is delivered to the regional power grid.”

    You see, those of us like myself, who has participated for years, know that what we are doing is voluntarily paying a slightly higher price in order to help fund investment in renewable energy facilities. What they say is that our incremental purchases help fund a “mix” of renewable sources for use by the system.

    Nowhere do I see a claim that the physical electrons that come to my house are solely the result of renewable energy production. Hasso, you’re baffled because nowhere I have seen do they say what you state. You have assumed an interpretation, because of your internal biases, that Pacific Power does not state.

    Let’s stick with the facts.

    • Well, Bob, here is what Pacific Power actually says in its brochure titled “Comparing your power options”:
      “Electricity can be generated in a number of ways. This quarterly brochure helps you compare the prices, fuel sources and environmental impact of electricity options available to you in Oregon. We hope you find this information helpful.”
      The brochure also invites customers to enroll in these options based on the information provided. So if one option is to buy electricity generated exclusively from wind, biomass and solar, what does that mean except exactly that? (hh)

      • Bob Woods says:

        “The brochure also invites customers to enroll in these options based on the information provided. So if one option is to buy electricity generated exclusively from wind, biomass and solar, what does that mean except exactly that?”

        I’m looking at the brochure online. What it shows is what energy sources you pay for in each program. It also states:

        “The portion supplied by Pacific Power is based on recent utility production and purchases (may not equal 100% due to rounding). For further explanation of the resources listed in the supply mix charts go to pacificpower.net /ORpowerlabel. Supply mix shown here is based on 2012 net system resources. Blue Sky program supply mix is based on 2012 program results”.

        It shows what you’re paying for. It does not state that only renewable power is delivered to your door. That’s a conclusion you jumped to. Did you call Doris Johnson to ask?

        • Bob, the portion you quote is nonsensical, at least to me as a utility customer. If “it shows what you’re paying for” but “does not state that only renewable power is delivered to your door,” then it states that Habitat customers are paying for those “renewable” resources but zero for coal, even though 61 percent of what they’re getting is from coal? Sweet deal if you can get it. And no, I did not ask Doris Johnson, a local Pacific Power representative. I emailed the corporate communications office but got no reply. (hh)

      • Bob Woods says:

        OK Hasso, I looked at “Comparing Your Power Options” and here is what I see under the Supply Mix section:

        “The portion supplied by Pacific Power is based on recent utility production and purchases (may not equal 100 percent due to rounding). For further explanation of the resources listed in the supply mix charts, go to pacificpower.net/ORpowerlabel.

        Supply mix shown here is based on 2012 net system resources. Blue Sky program supply mix is based on 2012 program results.”

        So what happened here is that you leaped to a judgment rather than reading and following up. “Program results” not “electrons delivered to your house”. NOTHING in that brochure says that the power delivered to YOUR house is only power generated by renewable sources. AND, if you follow what I poster previously, you see that Pacific Power explicitly stated that the money is used to buy energy certificates.

        Time top go back to basic reporting, instead of just telling us what you “think”.

        Facts.

        • Well, the fact is that this brochure is misleading in linking the production of renewable energy to different pricing options. No matter which option you choose, when you turn on the lights you make use of exactly the same supply mix as everybody else on the system at the same time, regardless of how much you pay. The brochure implies that you generate less pollution if you pay more. But you don’t. (hh)

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Blue Sky is a feel-good program for the gullible. Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described the underlying emotion perfectly – “idiot compassion.”

    Instead, spend a little extra on things that will benefit you economically like upgrades to your home: sealing leaks, insulating, and replacing drafty windows. And keep the air in your vehicle’s tires properly inflated.

    You’ll be better off financially, and may even feel greener, in the process.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Yes Gordon it makes me feel good. Do you REALLY have a problem with that? You trying to take away my right to choose? Typical for you.

      Gullible – easily deceived or cheated.

      I am neither being deceived or cheated. Independent agencies monitor that the money paid into the Blue Sky program is used for the purposes intended. So why are you lying about that point? Why do you choose that phrase unless you only intend to demean my choices, ones that are available to any citizen.

      I’ve already done large amounts of energy improvements in my home and life, including driving a fully electric car. You’re just someone who demeans others to raise his feelings of self-importance.

  4. Craig Ziegenhagel says:

    Bob, I would have no problem if it was tryly voluntary. Since March 1, 2002, under the Oregon State Electrical Restructuring Law, Utility/Power companies have been required to make this higher priced utility offer to encourage the use of renewable energy options. Some data I found call it a “Renewable Energy Mandate”. There are some that believe that these requirements have increased cocts to all consumers whether you like it or not. Since State and Federal tax dollars have spent and wasted billions of dollars supporting failed alternative energies….it does effect all of us, not what I consider voluntary. Someday hopefully many alternatives will be available to help us with power, the technology just is not there yet. So it all comes down to your own perspectives and what one wants to believe.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Actually, the “technology” IS there — just not at a viable/comparable cost to existing sources.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Craig, you confusing the mandatory production requirements and the taxation process, with a voluntary decision to participate in an optional program.

      I happen to support both. You don’t. Far enough. But don’t consolidate everything into an overarching libertarian rant.

  5. Jim Engel says:

    In reading all of the above I’m reminded of the Abbot & Costello skit of “Who’s On First…?” :) :) :)…JE

  6. Craig Ziegenhagel says:

    I wish people were this concerned about Millersburg’s attempt to develop their own public utility with threats to seize Pacific Power’s operation.

  7. Hazel Siebrecht says:

    I don’t think I should have to read the fine print on my utility bill. I don’t read any of the leaflets inserted in my statement which continue to urge me to go paperless (to save the trees?). My payments come out automatically but still we get the ‘junk’ mail. Our NW Natural Equal Pay went from $48 a month to $83! Is this based on our exceptionally cold winter which had us turning up the heat a bit?

 

 
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