January 23, 2011: Plugging In

When I first opened the envelope, our electric bill seemed higher this month than I’d expected. When I thought about it, the increase seemed easy to explain: my daughter and her family here for a cold, blustery Christmas meant turning on our third-floor space heaters for a week (although NStar’s bar graph re monthly use seems to counter that fact), baby, it’s been cold outside this month and, I’m afraid,  I’ve gotten into the very bad habit of simply turning on the space heater next to my desk.  The bill also announces a 2011 “rate change”, i.e. increase, too.

Gotta admit, this $28.05 increase—not a big deal, really, and certainly within my budget—has nevertheless upset me.

But why?

Well, first of all, because I know about it (lucky me: my husband pays our natural gas bill so I am totally, ahem, in the dark about that expense). And secondly, I realize, upon reflection, that although I have about as much understanding re how natural gas is produced and physically gets to my house as I do about our household’s NStar gas bill, I have a slight understanding of how electricity gets here.

When I think “natural gas production,” nothing comes to mind. Zip. Ah. But ask me to think about an electric plant (is that what you even call it?) and I can easily picture a) a roaring, powerful waterfall making some humungous turbine spin or b) a coal-burning plant doing the same thing. And , yes, it’s not hard to conjure up images of the top-razed mountains I have seen in West Virginia or miners trapped in poorly ventilated and dangerous mines.

But, really, is any coal burned to provide New England with its electric power?

I have no idea. But now that the Home Energy Assessment thing is moving along (I’m calling MassSAVE tomorrow to set up an appointment), maybe my next project this month will be to investigate this.

Stay tuned. Or should I say, plugged in?

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3 Comments

  1. “a) a roaring, powerful waterfall making some humungous turbine spin or b) a coal-burning plant doing the same thing”

    I thought a certain percentage of the output from Pickering (nuclear power plant) went down your way? No?

  2. Hi Patricia
    Et al
    The U.S. Dept of Energy does statistics on where our energy comes from so if you really want to know here’s the latest (which is 2008, but was uploaded in March 2010-it takes a while.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/massachusetts.html

    You’ll want to look at Table 5 It looks like about 25% comes from coal, 50% from natural gas (so maybe you want to learn more about that), 14% from nuclear, 2% from hydroelectric (so don’t wax too eloquent about those waterfalls, 3% from and 2% from “other renewables.” I’ve taken rounding liberties here, and haven’t bothered to add back in what comes from “utilities” for 2008 since it’s less than 2% spread across all those categories. You might have some fun just looking at energy patterns in the US.

    Love Susan L

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