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Is conservation the key to rising cost of power?

October 02, 2007

There's no disagreement that Pennsylvanians need to curb their appetite for electricity. The question no one agrees on is: Who's going to put citizens on a power diet?

Like Maryland, Pennsylvania faces the expiration of rate caps in the near future. Unlike Maryland, Keystone State lawmakers would tlike o do something constructive before the bigger bills start arriving.

But The Associated Press this week reported that utilities are opposed to any proposal that would put them in charge of cutting power use. A spokesman for the state's utilities said that the responsibility for conservation must be shared between electricity suppliers and business and household users.

One of Gov. Ed Rendell's proposals would require the utilities to invest in conservation measures when doing so would be cheaper than buying additional power for redistribution.

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With such methods, the AP reported, Rendell hopes to flatten demand, as opposed to allowing it to increase every year.

Rendell's plan would not put the entire burden for encouraging conservation on the utilities.

Instead, customers would volunteer to have their air conditioners become part of "rolling shutdowns" and possibly installing thermostats that would do that automatically.

Most power users can do more than they do at present to cut their household power use. Suggestions from the Alliance to Save Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient economy include the following:

Install compact fluorescent bulbs in the lamps used most often. They cost more, but last longer and will save money in the long run.

Install a low-flow shower head. Unlike older types, newer models deliver an adequate flow, but don't use nearly as much hot water.

Install weather-stripping on doors and make sure that windows are properly caulked, so that heat can't escape.

The cost of power is going to rise, but if consumers get accustomed to using less now, they won't be as shocked when the new, higher bills arrive.

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