Nice timing

On Friday I wrote about HB608, or as Delegate Eckardt called it, the “light bulb bill.” As I mentioned I glance through the inserts but normally don’t pay attention.

Wouldn’t you know it, yesterday’s mail had my April electric bill and inside was an insert that said, in part:

Delmarva Power is committed to helping customers save energy, save money and protect the environment. That’s why we have started a discount program to encourage the purchase of ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at participating Maryland retailers.

To fund this important energy conservation program for residential customers, Delmarva Power is adding a “Demand Side Management Surcharge” of $0.000029 per kilowatt-hour to the bills of the residential customers beginning the billing month of March. The impact of this additional charge on a residential customer’s bill will vary from customer to customer, and is dependent on the amount of energy the customer uses each month.

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The surcharge covers discounts associated with the purchase of the CFLs at the participating stores, customer awareness, promotions, and the administrative costs of the program.

The concept of HB608 was one allowing me to opt-in and pay these sorts of charges on my bill only if I chose to. Sure, it’s just 3 cents on my bill (based on the 947 kWh I used this month) but it goes with the 14 cent environmental surcharge, the 37 cent fee for “Universal Service Program”, and 59 cents for a Maryland Franchise Tax – I’m paying an extra dollar-plus for items that aren’t running this computer.

The market for CFL bulbs hasn’t progressed to the point where it’s obvious they’re the best choice, so other entities have had to enter the marketplace and twist it in such a way that we’re forced to buy these bulbs like them or not. As part of Congress’s so-called Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (HR6) there’s a provision (Section 321) which mandates light bulbs create more light with less energy, e.g. a 100-watt bulb has to create the same amount of light using just 72 watts. It was thought that this little-noticed provision could spell the end of the incandescent light bulbs as we know them, so after 2011 we’ll pretty much be forced to deal with CFL bulbs unless the technology for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) catches up by then.

I have nothing against CFL bulbs except the price and associated hassles I’ll discuss below – price-wise at Wal-Mart a pack of three will run you $8.58. What Delmarva Power has done is secure a discounted price at particular stores (Wal-Mart isn’t one of them) to serve as an incentive to buy these bulbs. It would be fine if everyone wasn’t paying for it through their electric bills, or at least had the opportunity to refuse paying the charge.

And then there’s the hassle. When my regular incandescent bulb goes out I toss it in the garbage. With a CFL bulb I’m supposed to take it to a special recycling center because of the mercury content, but none exist on the Lower Shore. If I drop and break the bulb, I’m not supposed to vacuum it up but open the window, leave the room for 15 minutes, don rubber gloves upon returning, carefully pick up the shards, place them in a plastic bag, seal it, place the cleanup materials in a second plastic bag along with the first plastic bag, and then immediately take it outside to a sealed trash container. And if I do have to use a vacuum cleaner I’m supposed to take it outside after finishing and run it for an hour to flush out the mercury. Well, there goes that savings!

Does that sound ridiculous? Of course! But all of us in Delmarva Power are going to pay for this program. Thank you very much, environmentalist wackos.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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