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July 9, 2011 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Energy smarts!

Oh, CenterPoint Energy, you charmer! There it was: a bright new billboard glowing along I45 featuring CenterPoint and a friendly Smart Meter portrait.

Wow, that must have cost. I mean it’s so big and in such a prime location. But hey, CenterPoint always looking out for their customers – no matter the cost! And I know you’re sincere because you’ve been complaining recently that there’s just not enough money for you to do all the things you’d like to do to your customers…ooops that’s for your customers, silly me, not smarty enough. But here you are gutting it up with a grand new billboard just for the driving pleasure of the locals. It’s for driving pleasure, right?  There really wasn’t any important new/vital information on that sign. There wasn’t anything you are actually selling there – I mean it’s not like customers have a choice with the Smart Meter thing. But it was a really cute picture of that cheery little Smart Meter!

You guys are really charged up about those Smart Meters although customers are a tad nervous about them with the quiet  whispers of health and safety issues and those pesky house fires that surprisingly flare up suddenly as contractors install the smarty contraptions. But hey, that just helps the economy, right? Gives electricians and carpenters some work.  So what’s a little inconvenience  and unexpected cost by electric customers?  It’s a patriotic duty, almost….sort of like we were all told to go out and buy things to help the economy?

Speaking of buying things, did I hear right that there’s an accessory market being created to work with those new smart meters? Hey, how great is that? Everyone’s going to want one of those little gadgets that let you see how using an appliance directly affects how much energy your house is consuming – and how much it costs you. The kids will love this! It’ll be like a TV quiz show. Guess how much it costs to run the microwave! Or the hair dryer? Or the air conditioning!  How great it this? Turn on an appliance and see how much it costs to run it! According to your promotion, once customers see how each appliance increases the electrical costs, they make wise decisions on which to use – and thus have “real control”over energy usage and costs. CenterPoint, I know you can hardly contain your benevolent joy over this.  All for us “little people.” We’ll have the power!  If we want to lower our electric bills, we can just see which appliance is costing us so much money and just choose not to use that one.  For example, we could choose to just go around with wet hair. (OK, wet ponytails are perfectly acceptable in the summer. Explain that to company’s HR.) Or we could choose to use the gas stove to cook rather than the microwave. (What? You don’t think that’s necessary?) Even with the temps being at or above 100 degrees during the day with a humid 78-83 at night, we could decide just to cut off the air conditioner since it’s a big energy/costly thing to use? Right, like there is actually a choice here. The thermostat is already up as high as it can go without melting decorative candles. Here’s a thought, we can just use candles rather than the lights!

But hey, CenterPoint, maybe you can put up some more billboards with pictures of the little meter gadgets – you know, build demand.  Just justify the cost with benevolence and the fact that it will help the economy. Think about it. Companies will have to hire people to make the little things. Wow, CenterPoint, you’re a job producer – almost like the Federal government. Uh, you two aren’t related or connected somehow are you? That would be a little troubling. I mean, I know people weren’t happy with the government sort-of buying General Motors. GM, don’t they make the Chevy Volt? That electric car that Motor Trend named car of the year ? Hmmm. CenterPoint, you and the energy providers like Reliant, you guys would really like us all switch to electric cars? Reliant’s got a corporate connection to one of the companies installing a bunch of those “public” and private car charging stations.  And I forget, who is connected to whom in the wind turbine world? Wind turbines? Aren’t they located in remote locations needing more transmission lines? Oh, well, I’m getting distracted. It’s better to plug into electricity rather than use dirty old gasoline.  It would mean electric dependency – oops, that’s independence from dirty fossil fuels. Still, I’m a tad nervous about installing that plug in the garage. There are still those nagging car-bursting-into-flames in the garage stories.

Still, I know CenterPoint, you are just too busy to be wired about all that stuff. I mean just last week you had to write that rebuttal article and scold those questioning a supposed Texas land grab. Just because what CenterPoint wants, no make that needs, to run more high voltage electrical lines through rural counties, land owners in Austin, Fayette, and Waller counties are upset.  They want to know why CenterPoint can’t use the existing right of ways. Of course you said those old existing right of ways were just not cost-effective for the company. Seriously, those people should know you have to pay for all those billboards. (What was that you were selling there? I forgot.) Besides, you plan on paying “fair value”, or whatever you can get away with, for land as in the past.

Just because those counties probably won’t actually get any electricity from those transmission line, what’s the problem?  The electric grid serves the entire state.  And nobody wants state-wide rolling blackouts like we had during chilly February. With the usual summer heat and all those electric cars being bought, electric demand will be going up! What is it you said? “We understand that many property owners would prefer not to have new infrastructure projects like highways, power lines, dams, or reservoirs constructed near their property. At the same time most residents understand that such infrastructure projects contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy” Well, that tells those troublemakers! Too bad about your land and quality of life. So sorry. (Sad face. Sad face.) You even scolded that there had been multiple public meetings already about this and that the Public Utility Commission of Texas will be holding more meetings before they make their decision concerning this proposal. CenterPoint, you are just so – so insightful, thoughtful, and sincere. Anyone can see that!

Guess it’s odd Peter Brown, former Houston City Council member, hopes the  Public Utility Commission will support the public “by enforcing higher standards and requiring a long-range CenterPoint plan, vetted by the public.” He cites “CenterPoint’s makeshift, unsafe, ugly, apparently incomplete and poorly engineered electrical grid.” Hmmm. Sounds like you’re going to have to work to win him over. But hey, everyone knows he’s a trouble maker. He just hates all those limp wires drooping between tired leaning power poles. People just don’t understand fixing all those knots of wires would really cost money! (And you have to pay for those billboards.) Besides it’s easier to wait to see if a hurricane will come in, tangling wires, and blowing marginal poles down. Maybe insurance will help pay to repairs then. How bright!

Anyway, CenterPoint, that cute little Smart Meter face on the billboard certainly just cheered me right up this morning. There’s nothing like a fresh new billboard to hide roadside blight. Keep up the good work, or at least maybe keep good people working! Charge on! Charge on!

Smartly driving,

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

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