Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Power Privilege

At this time of year I cherish each sunny day.  There are the obvious reasons for this since having passed the autumnal equinox in my patch of the globe the number of daylight hours is rapidly shrinking.  And the not so obvious reason like laundry.

A couple of years ago my ancient dryer decided to stop working.  That was fine by with me since it rarely got used.  I moved into this house 8.5 years ago and brought with me my spanking new energy efficient dryer.  The movers quickly discovered that the basement doorway was too narrow to get it down to the official laundry room.  At the time this was a small crisis.  But I made do.  The old dryer worked but was never very efficient so I started hanging my clothes to air dry nearly from the start of moving into this house.  I basically used the old dryer for sheets in the winter and 'emergency' loads.  So when it stopped working altogether that didn't phase me.  Sheets can air dry too and if you set up your house to accomodate this then it is not a huge problem.  It is important to note that I live in a two person household so I have the luxury of space and small laundry usage that a bigger household does not.

In the fall I hang up wash loads on my outside line with grateful appreciation to the dimming autumnal sun.  Each fall load I hang I hope for enough heat and wind to dry.  I check weather reports to see if leaving it out overnight is feasible in case the day doesn't provide ideal conditions for a quick dry.  In the summer these matters are moot and I often squeeze three washloads on the line in one day.

As I checked the weather last night before putting on a load of laundry I chuckled at how the time of use power changes here in Toronto have radically altered my household hydro usage.  I was raised in a house that demanded lights were turned off when the room was not in use and I have done the same.  The smart meter changes have demanded a little more sophistication.  My dishwasher and washing maching never get run during prime hours.  In fact the only power that I use during prime hours is this computer and sometimes making dinner (and my fridge and freezer).  And often dinner manages to be late enough to avoid the premium (we tend to eat on european hours in this house, especially during the summer months).  I have room air conditioners that also see some use during the summer months during heat waves.

There is a provincial election this week in Ontario and one of the big topics has been the increase in our hydro bills due to the current government implementing a harmonized tax.  The other side of this debate is the smart meters themselves since they have not been implemented throughout Ontario yet and the other parties are calling them a cash grab by the incumbent party.

This kind of doublespeak confuses me.  My own experience since the smart meter was installed AND the harmonized tax was implemented has been that my hydro bills have gone slightly down.  About 5-10%.  To me this is quite satisfying knowing that the small changes in my behaviour have allowed a modest decrease to my household budget AND have helped to smooth out peak power demands.

We all know too well the saying that "power corrupts".  If we apply this idiom to hydro usage we see that it not only corrupts but blindsides a population that is all too unwilling to make small changes towards ending our reliance on carbon based energy.

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