Smart meters are providing consumers with hourly and daily energy use information. But does it inspire conservation?
Smart meters are providing California households with their hourly and daily energy use information for the first time. Consumers use less electricity, studies have shown, when they can see that data. But getting them to pay attention to energy in the first place may be the biggest hurdle.
Half of the airborne mercury pollution in the US comes from coal-fired power plants. After years of study and debate, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to announce new limits on mercury from coal plants in November. Meanwhile, utilities are scrambling to meet other new federal regulations and industry groups are asking the government to slow down.
California is known for its "green" reputation, so it might be a surprise that residents in Southern California still depend on coal power when they turn on the lights.
Solar and wind power may get the headlines when it comes to renewable energy. But another type of clean power is heating up in the hills just north of Sonoma wine country. The Geysers, the world's largest power-producing geothermal field, has been providing electricity for roughly 850,000 Northern California households, and is set to expand even further.
Energy storage (through batteries) is something we use everyday in our cell phones and computers. So it may be a little surprising that when it comes to the electric grid, storing energy is something that's rarely done.
Last summer I visited the Netherlands, the original home of the windmill. Surprisingly, I saw hardly any of the quaint structures we associate with Dutch wind power. One hundred years ago Holland had about 10,000 wooden windmills dotting its landscape. Today, barely 10% remain.
I've never paid much attention to my electric meter. For most of us, it's just that box on the side of the house with a small white disk spinning inside, keeping track of our energy use. But over the next three years, all the meters for PG&E customers will be getting a major upgrade to a new, digital SmartMeter.