Time to go solar

April 2nd, 2012
By

There's this Hawaiian Electric Co. commercial that ran at the start of the year, as part of a series of ads aiming to educate the public (and paid for with shareholder funds).

No, not the one where Jade Moon interviews HECO executive Robbie Alm. It's the one where Jade Moon interviews two HECO representatives — Ka‘iulani De Silva from education and consumer affairs and Blaine Cacho, an account manager.

The script goes something like this.

Jade Moon: "Does conservation really work?"

Ka‘iulani De Silva (smiling sympathetically): "We know high electricity costs are frustrating for our customers. But simple steps can amount to surprising savings."

"That's right," chimes in Blaine Cacho, matter-of-factly. "If you turn off the air-conditioner and let the tradewinds cool your home, you can save more than $1,000 a year."

While watching this commercial or whatever you call it, I found myself talking to the TV. "But we don't have any air-conditioning in this house! Not even a window unit!" I said.

Summers are sweltering in our house. We turn on fans and desperately open up all of the windows, wishing the tradewinds would flow through the house (if only it was built with the windows facing the right direction). The best solution seems to be an escape to the beach.

Our electricity bill currently averages about $200 a month, which is about $50 higher than it was a few years ago (along with everybody else's).

Then Jade asks Blaine about a second refrigerator and he says if it's a really old model, it could be using up plenty of energy. Removing it, he says, could also save you more than $1,000 a year.

"But we don't have a second fridge!" I said. We only have one fridge. It isn't fancy, but it's not one of the old models, either.

The HECO representatives, with pleasant, wanting-to-help smiles, dole out more tips. Washing your laundry in cold water can save more than $800 a year, adds De Silva.

"But we already wash in cold water!" I told the folks on T.V. "We've been doing that for years."

So seriously, what more can we do? HECO has a whole slew of publications with more energy-saving tips which you can find by clicking on "Energy Savings Toolkit." You have the "Power to Save" pamphlet as well as the "101 Ways to Save" brochure and the "Energy Tips & Choices" booklet. HECO does do a good job of putting out all these education pamphlets.

Still, our bill hasn't gone down much lately.

Did I mention that we already have a solar water heater and that we line-dry, too? Well, most of the time. On rainy days, we do resort to the dryer.

Lately, I've been walking around the house, flipping off the lights (yes, powered by energy-efficient compact fluorescents, mind you) and switching off various power strips at night, too. I bought an energy-saving "smart" power strip which keeps the DVD player from sucking out energy when it's not in use.

Since 2010, monthly bills have risen by 50 percent, says Alm, almost all of it due to oil. In the wake of the tsunami in Japan, oil has largely replaced nuclear energy, causing prices in the Asia Pacific region to skyrocket.

The cost of electricity is only going one way – up. You know what I think? I think it's time to go solar. The federal and state tax credits are still available, and there's still enough room in plenty of neighborhoods without HECO's concerns about destabilizing their circuits.

Do you know how much solar PV there is on your street? You can look it up on this map.

Stay tuned.

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