Chickenomics: The art and science of making complex and convoluted energy economics chicken simple.
Okay, so I made that up. Maybe it makes no sense and I’m crazy. Who wouldn’t be after 40 years as an energy economist and utility consumer advocate?
My area of energy economics is the regulation of monopoly investor-owned utilities. My passion is saving versus selling energy. My gig is representing ratepayers before state public utility commissions, advocating that utilities help consumers conserve and use energy more efficiently while greening the planet. I’ve worked most parts of the country, with the last fifteen near California exclusive.
The beginnings trace to the 73-74 OPEC oil embargo when the price of oil went from $1.00 to $6.00 a barrel and 30% of the country’s power plants used oil to generate electricity. Consumers slashed energy consumption in response to rock and roll rate increases and price shocks. Utilities were caught with their pants down – underutilized and expensive power plants, costly fuel contracts, and D.O.A. massive generation expansion plans. It was a mess!
Amory Lovins came along in 1976 with his seminal work Soft Energy Paths espousing that it’s not kilowatthours per se, but the end use service – cold beer and warm showers – that consumers wanted. Amory said the utility industry could stay the “hard path” of expensive, wasteful, and environmentally degrading fossil fuel generation, or go the “soft path” of energy efficiency and renewables.
Across the country, “Robin Hoods” such as myself banded together in grassroots organizing before state public utility commissions demanding that utilities consider energy efficiency in the alternative of new power plants.
Fast forward to California. For over a decade, the Golden State has claimed to be a, if not the, national and international leader in saving energy. Such folklore wouldn’t be so bad if it stayed in California. But folks, California’s “efficiency success story” is the under girdle of state and national energy policies, and hand-carried to the likes of China as the “how to” primer on reducing electric carbon emissions.
The truth is, while California has accomplished a great deal in saving energy, clinging to its overstated glory has resulted in a huge Rube Goldberg construct of complex and convoluted utility-run, ratepayer funded efficiency programs that dance to the rhythm of two steps forward – one or two steps back on energy savings and cost efficiencies.
Several years ago, I realized I was Alice going down the California energy efficiency rabbit hole where up was down, big was little, and deceptions were truths. So, I took up small-scale chicken farming. You see, chickens are straightforward with nothing to hide. No game playing. And, chickens don’t overwork it. They know what they are good at, and, most days, lay an egg. Sure, this brings on a lot of clucking and boasting, but wouldn’t you if you could do the same?
If Governor Brown’s 2015 Inaugural 50-50-50 goals (reduce transportation fuel use by 50%, increase renewables to 50% of electric generation, and make buildings 50% more energy efficient) – has a chance in hell, California will have to (at least with building efficiency), do something radically different.
It begins in part with deconstructing the current Rube Goldberg construct of complex and convoluted efficiency programs through some fairly chicken simple changes, in tandem with new market-based approaches to financing efficiency through the large capital markets.
That’s what this part of my website “Chickenonomics Inc.” is about. The postings that follow dress this out.
This website is also about me sharing some of my musings through “All About the Garden” and the “Summer 2015 Gypsy Tour.” “All About the Garden” has a couple of videos and postings and recordings of poetry and writings leading hopefully to a book by the same title. The “Summer 2015 Gypsy Tour” blogs my two month journey July – September through Oregon and Washington following my heart – looking for places and people of like spirit living more simple sustainable lives with fertile soils surrounded by green and blue, green and blue.
“In this middle of this crazy world, I am just hoping to show up a be heard.” WAH! Singer/songwriter, Opium album.
Much love to all of you! Thank you for being part of my journey. – Cynthia