These are trying times in California, with scorching temperatures causing a strain on the state's power grid. PG&E has urged its customers to set their thermostats to 85 degrees when away from home to help conserve energy, so of course I do. It is right and prudent and maybe even a bit patriotic. I am proud to make the sacrifice.
Until I get home at the end of a long and tiring day, that is. It is not that the house is unbearably hot, no. I can live with that. I know it will cool down shortly once I reset the thermostat to 78. Now I could set it to 75 but I am not a greedy person. I am a responsible citizen, conserving energy even when I am at home, fulfilling my noble quest to prevent power outages and spare my fellow man from Mother Nature's wrath.
So I reset the thermostat to 78...and ten minutes later the power goes out. Wrath not avoided, apparently. The power does not come back on for two hours. Now two hours may not seem like a long time to you, and it is not a long time compared to...well, anything longer than two hours...but two hours in 110 degree weather with no air conditioning in a house that is already 85 degrees before the power outage is an eternity.
Not only is it hot and stuffy, but I have to drink the pond scum that comes out of my faucet disguised as water because the fridge requires electricity to not only keep the food cool but also apparently to work the automatic ice and water dispenser. Sheesh. It took me the better part of an hour to figure out how to open the ice bin manually so I could actually have ice. Not until after the power came back on did it occur to me I could have set my glass of ice on the counter and it would have melted into pure filtered water in a matter of minutes, thereby avoiding the pond scum altogether. I would never make it in the wild.
But my point, and I do have one, is this: I was punished for following the rules. Had I ruthlessly kept my house at a lower temperature all day, I would not have been so uncomfortable during the outage. Where is my reward for "Flexing My Power," oh gods of PG&E? Do you not have the technology to identify the do-gooders like me versus the evil power wasters? You bill your customers based on usage so you must be able to measure it by individual household. Why do you not have sophisticated computerized switching equipment that cuts the power of the wasters when you need to lighten the load yet leaves the rule-followers alone? Is this beyond today's technology? Do I watch too much Star Trek?
Or here's a thought, why don't you upgrade your antiquated equipment, you Hinkley-poisoning morons? It's not like there isn't enough power to go around. The problem is the delivery system through which you are trying to push all that energy.
As we sat around sweating in the dark last night, my sister recalled water and energy conservation efforts when she lived in San Francisco during the nineties. My favorite house rule: "Flush the toilet only if you go number two. Otherwise, don't flush until it's so full you can't close the lid."
She said she learned back then to ignore any and all conservation pleas after she and her roommates proudly met the call to cut back 25% one year. At the end of their arduous year of effort, the City pronounced it had not met the 25% goal overall so everyone now had to cut back an additional 10% or suffer fines. That's 10% of the current year's usage, which means if you were greedy and didn't cut back at all that first year, not only were you not fined for disregarding the rules but you only had to cut back 10% now. Meanwhile, if you scrimped and suffered to meet the 25% goal in year one, you were still expected to come up with another 10% somehow. That amounts to cutting your consumption three times more than your greedy neighbor. How unfair is that?
So the moral of the story is to use as much energy as you like because 1) you will not be rewarded for conserving energy, and 2) you will inevitably end up without power at some point this summer anyway. If it gets bad enough, maybe PG&E will be forced to finally take some action, like dip into its billions to make sure they have equipment that works properly.
Hey, it could happen.