May 16, 2011

Prepaid electricity

via Wikimedia
As dirty fucking hippies predicted, because we've been through this before with telephone deregulation, electricity "competition" will lead to companies engaging in dubious practices to bilk you out of your money. Electricity isn't like gas or a bottle of milk. You use it most of the time without having any sense of the per unit cost (both per kilowatt hours and how many kilowatt hours your teevee users), you just know roughly what your bill "should" be based on past experience. This is just one more pain in the ass for people who have enough pains in the asses to deal with.
I think he's right about the likely effects of electricity deregulation and how people don't pay much attention to their electricity bill, but I'd say people should pay more attention to it even if it is a bit of a pain in the ass.  (Though I think Atrios was mostly talking about having to sift through your bill to make sure the company didn't hide a bunch of bullshit fees in this case.)

South Africa's setup is better in this regard (though way out here in the village the power is a bit intermittent).  Most people have prepaid electricity with a simple meter giving your remaining kilowatt-hours.  Five minutes at an ATM lets you buy electricity tokens with your cell phone; if you don't have a bank account, most every village shop sells them too.  I can say not only is it very easy to keep your supply up, the simply act of having to buy a token and punch it into the meter makes you pay attention to your electricity consumption in a way I never had before.  What's more, the readout is continuous, so nerdy types can experiment away.

Now, that's not going to solve the climate crisis, but in the context of some kind of sensible energy bill, it could help people (especially lower income) save some energy and money.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, we use this system now in Azerbaijan and it has opened my eyes as to what the real cost of electricity is. It also lets you monitor it much more closely.