New Expectations for Electricity Consumers
For most of the last century, Americans have been passive consumers of electricity, paying whatever their utility charged for the juice to run their lights and appliances.
That would change under the new carbon rules that the Obama administration will be unveiling Monday, experts say. Utilities themselves would install more large solar farms and wind turbines, but that wouldn’t be enough to meet the goals for reducing greenhouse gases.
So households and businesses would have to become active participants in the electricity business, selling power from their own solar panels or collecting payments for cutting their electricity use when the grid is under stress. And consumers, with financial help from utilities, will need to replace old refrigerators and air conditioners with more efficient models.
How much the shift would cost Americans is the subject of fierce debate.
Supporters of the rule contend increased energy efficiency and falling costs for renewable generation would allow consumers to cut their bills, even as utilities pass along the costs of new power stations and the remaining debt payments on coal plants that will be closed.