You Wouldn’t Blindly Buy A Car, So Don’t Blindly Buy Your Electricity

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Originally published on Cost of Solar.

blindfolded girl
Credit: CrazyFast / CC BY-NC-SA

We all like to think of ourselves as rational people, but the fact of the matter is that we all make economic decisions that are not rational at all. But many of these decisions are so common or engrained in our way of life that we don’t even realize it.

Consider this: would you walk in to an auto dealership and just tell the auto dealer that you want to buy a car (no more details than that) and then buy whatever he wants to sell you? Or even more appropriate to the point I’m going to make, would you be cool with an auto dealer sending you a car and then charging you for it — no discussion or negotiation regarding price, no discussion regarding what kind of car you want, no discussion regarding the fuel economy of the car, no discussion about anything?

Sure, in such a situation, there’d have to be some government oversight to make sure you aren’t being ripped off too badly, but that would be limited — the above story would really be the basic deal.

Assuming you understand what this website is about, I think you might know where I’m going with this… that is essentially the exact same type of relationship you have with your electric company, is it not?

Yes, it’s true, a car is a little more personal than your electricity supply. However, if your local power plant is burning dirty energy from coal or natural gas (likely), you’re seeing some of the effects in the quality of your air and water (and your local mountain range may even be getting blown apart). You’re also probably noticing the rising cost of food, insurance, taxpayer-funded disaster relief, and water that global warming is speeding up or fully causing. If your electricity is coming from a nuclear power plant, you have to wonder if that power plant won’t someday crack a leak or something, and you may also be concerned about the nearby transport or storage of radioactive nuclear waste. Also, if you’re reliant on nuclear or coal and your region gets heat with a heat wave (quite common these days), you might experience a blackout here and there.

But the real zinger that you’re going to directly feel and notice is surely your monthly electric bill. If you think an auto dealer in the situation above wouldn’t rip you off, you’ve either got a very optimistic and trusting mind or you’ve got a screw or two loose. And the same does apply to electricity from your regional electricity company.

The good news is that you can now go down to a car dealership to pick the car you want to buy and get the best deal for your money (or at least try to… the best deal for your money is probably simply a bike, transit, and/or telecommuting, but that’s a story for another day).

Also, many of you can now get hooked up to a local solar power installer who you can pay to install a solar power system on your roof that will create electricity for you that is both cheaper than electricity from the grid and much cleaner. Actually, thanks to the wonderful internet age we live in, you can do all this while sitting on your computer… right now. And it just takes a few minutes.

If you think about it, it’s actually a bit ridiculous how easy this now is. It’s no joke. It’s no dream. It’s no game. Millions of people have taken this route in the past 2 or 3 years.

Join the US solar rooftop revolution!

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7158 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan

3 thoughts on “You Wouldn’t Blindly Buy A Car, So Don’t Blindly Buy Your Electricity

  • I’ve noticed lately that my watts are a bit light. The power lines are higher too now so perhaps the lightness is to stop them falling down?

  • buy solar and an EV. no more electricity bills, no more gas bills.
    make a lot of money.

  • Zach, you run a very interesting site and regularly provide thoughtful articles. However, this isn’t one of them.

    Electricity is a commodity and no one can distinguish what fuel/source generated it when that power hits your meter. So 98% of consumers are going to go for the lowest price, and that is rational.

    What people don’t find rational is paying into some convoluted govt run scheme of buying and selling credits whether they be for Carbon or Renewables, and then selling them to retail power companies that can then brand their power as “100% Green”. If they were truly market processes where the govt didnt intervene by setting minimum prices, or setting arbitrary rules on the retirement of credits, etc…, these might be valid processes. But they arent; they are simply taxes disguised to look like something else. It may make people feel better, but it’s not really accomplishing anything.

    The solution to get where I suspect where you want go is for renewables to continue to improve their cost competitiveness against traditional fuel sources so that renewables displace these over time. And it looks like that’s the direction we are heading.

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