Monthly Archives: June 2015

Carbon tax is a levy on pollution

Carbon tax – a levy on pollution whose time has come

A carbon tax is a levy on pollution, for the relative cost to humanity of the use of fossil fuels. This cost cannot be tabulated in exact terms, for it’s the accumulated cost of the damage to the environment, human health, and related costs of the use of fossil fuels that can only be estimated. The carbon tax itself is a fee on the production and distribution of fossil fuels. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then that translates into a tax on oil, natural gas or such things as the electric bill.

Businesses and utilities then have the incentive to reduce consumption, and/ or maintain the market price and absorb the cost of the tax, or pass the added fee on to individual consumers. Individuals would then have the incentive to reduce consumption, increase their energy efficiency habits or face a steeper cost for energy and gas.

The principle of mitigating negative externalities (such as the damage caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the primary purpose of the carbon tax. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers. The businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should consider bearing the brunt of the tax. In practice, individuals pay more.

A carbon tax is enacted to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Public transportation, energy efficiency products, and things like clean coal technology become great alternatives to traditional means. One other benefit of a carbon tax, besides the incentives to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency, is the increased attractiveness of the cost of alternative energy, which is made closer to cost parity with fossil fuels.

 

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK have all successfully implemented a partial carbon tax on some goods and services, while not being able to implement a broad, universal carbon tax. Generally, reports of lower greenhouse-gas emissions follow the passage of a carbon tax. In addition, India and Australia, among many other countries, have also successfully enacted carbon tax policies. The province of British Columbia, in Canada, has reported drops of around 5% annually of greenhouse gas emissions due to its aggressive carbon tax policies. 

Home Energy Management (HEM)

Home Energy Management (HEM)

Home Energy Management (HEM) refers to technology that helps homeowners improve home energy efficiency while also giving them access to household products from tablets, smartphones and computers. HEM systems save people on energy consumption (thus money) and time. With the remote controlled access, one can control thermostats, lights, other appliances or home monitors via the internet.

HEM systems include smart thermostats, smart appliances that regulate energy consumption, smart outlets and smart plug strips that turn completely off when not in use. An increasingly common addition to HEM systems are home monitors, including ones that provide home security systems. However, the product that best exemplifies HEM is the programmable thermostat.

Of the smart thermostats, The Nest (the pioneer of this technology, introduced to the mass market in 2011), continues to be the most popular brand. The Nest makes it simple to change the temperature of your home from your computer, mobile device or tablet. Another popular and innovative smart product, the Ecobee3, is an example of a smart thermostat that offers an additional unique feature. With the Ecobee3, thermostats can be programmed to control the temperature in up to 32 rooms (with additional sensors). If the temperature in a multistory home varies from room to room due to a standard HVAC, the Ecobee3 offers a solution. These are two examples of user-friendly smart thermostats.

Another HEM product is the smart outlet. With the smart outlet, the power of any home appliance can be measured. Through a tablet, smartphone, or PC, the outlets can also be used to set schedules for lights or electronics. The schedules can be coordinated with the grid to have a reduction in energy consumption during peak energy production hours, if the utility offers such data. Smart appliances (like a smart washer/ dryer) can reduce their energy consumption during peak hours as well. In addition, the latest in HEM offerings is a complete home monitoring system with smart outlets, combined home alarm and security system and a a remote controlled thermostat.

 

Today, service providers other than utilities are at the forefront in the smart grid, in part due to HEM products. Companies that provide cable, internet and smart phone services are now adding energy monitoring, control and optimization services to their offerings, pushing utilities into a supporting role. Utilities and service providers are both experimenting with different approaches. The service provider is a promising alternative to utilities to extend the smart grid into more homes.