Lean Tech: Climate Dividends & Dodger Dogs

By Published On: April 3, 2014

I eagerly await my April electricity bill, due any day. I can’t wait to see my $35 “California Climate Dividend” discount on my Southern California Edison bill. Apparently as excited are California Public Utilities Commission president Mike Peevey and California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. On March 31, they announced the dividends. They “exhorted” Californians to use their savings at their “neighborhood Home Depot or Costco” to buy new energy saving gizmos—like LED light bulbs or “smart” thermostats. With the total value of the climate dividends to residential utility customers estimated at a $750 million this year, it seems to amount to a whole lot of energy saving light bulbs, thermostats, and other gadgets if people followed their advice. Brimming with anticipation about my dividend, I drove down to my local Home Depot. I wanted to see just how I might use my money—which is to show up as a residential power bill credit for investor-owned utility customers every six months—to save energy. There were plenty of options. One aisle featured LED light bulbs I could buy starting at about $10 apiece. That may have been an option if I hadn’t already installed them every place we let a light burn through the night, including front and back porches, a hallway outside a bathroom, and selected other places we tend to leave lights on. All the rest are CFLs. How about a “smart” thermostat? They start at around $120. If I used only my dividend, I’d need to wait a couple years to accumulate the money. So that is not a bona fide option for me. A couple aisles over I found something I could afford: weather stripping. You know, the kind you peel the tape off the back of and glue along the edges of door frames and windows to keep air from leaking in or out. The problem was I’d been there and done that. Quite frankly, it never worked too well or lasted too long. In fact, one night I found my front door wide open at 2 a.m. after my daughter came home and apparently couldn’t get it properly shut due to the weather stripping I’d applied. I took it off the next day. Next I walked down a row of power strips—another state endorsed energy saver. I was looking for the kind you shut off with a remote, except for one outlet into which you plug your modem or DVR. The remote’s handy. If you can find it, you don’t have to crawl under the dusty desk or TV cabinet before going to bed after waking up on the sofa while Jimmy Fallon interviews a celebrity you’ve never heard of. But they were out of reach, starting at around $100. The Energy Star washers and dryers sure looked nice and shiny compared to my 40-year-old Maytags. But as long as they keep spinning, the $35 is not enough to get me to drop $1,200 or more to replace them. I already did that with a Maytag Energy Star and water efficient dishwasher. It broke 13 months after I purchased it for $900, just one month after the warranty expired. It cost $400 to repair and that was after it took about eight weeks for the part to come in. The service tech told me the new part probably won’t last much longer than the old part. Alas, I should have just repaired the old Maytag dishwasher, which worked without service for 15 years before breaking down. I left Home Depot with my enthusiasm spent. Then, a brilliant idea flashed into my mind. I should spend my dividend on a beer and “Dodger Dog” at the upcoming game I just bought tickets to see. I might even have enough left over for a bag of peanuts.

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