Freewheeling flight of fancy solutions encouraged here! From the kernel of someone's offbeat ideas, a new technological application can be proffered...
Recently, I canceled the yard light that illuminates the abandoned old house and yard at the bottom of my driveway. During the past ten years, my bill has jumped from $35 a month to nearly $90, and nothing I do seems to "conserve" on the prices I'm charged. Whoopee! I save a bit more than $10 a month... which was going to jump to $15. I thought about moving the light to a useful place in the area of the farm where I now live. But, new installations are EVEN HIGHER. This is legal, but not ethical, to my way of thinking. Since in most areas, electrical companies have monopolies, they have no counterbalances against these excesses.
Turning the thermostat up in summer and down in winter -- no relief. Turning the furnace off totally for long periods of time in temperate weather -- no relief. Keeping minimal heat during longer winter absences -- no relief.
The utility companies are no longer owned locally. They no longer come around and read the meters. They "estimate" the usage and charge an average of several past year's consumption (all based on unread meters). They expect automatic payment for non-services, at ever-inflating rates, and equal billing rates with areas over large districts not served by the same power sources. Of course, the most expensive outlay is the one that is patterned, not the ones that are more effective. This is rewarding NEGATIVE behavior, not encouraging responsible land stewardship.
The consumers are victimized.
I think of the state of California's energy woes, how the government went after the companies that did the gouging, and realize the individual consumers have no power to fight like that, and see a need we have the technology to solve.
As meters are replaced/new installations made, electronically readable meters need to be installed, coupled to an automatic computerized reading system.
"Personal" wind mills once dotted the Iowa landscape, and that of many other areas, prior to the availability of electricity, and ran water pumps. I can see a cottage industry springing up in areas where people have the room available, involving personal windmills that are harnessed by wire/battery to the individual's electrical system. Excess production during windy periods could be SOLD to the power companies, who are crying shortage...
I again think of Soylent Green and the scene of the stationary bike rider creating the power to read his book by... As we become more exercise conscious, let's plug in a jack and increase the electrical energy available to run our own homes.
Thus people who switch their local consumption to wind power and other alternative energy supplies reap the benefit of their investments, and, even more importantly, get out from under the thumb of price gouging companies who no longer have their customer's welfare at heart. They are not forced to play the role of a cash cow to be milked as hard and as long as possible.
We Americans celebrate "tax freedom day". Now we need to bend our creativity to "energy freedom day." If we wait for the government to get around to dreaming up the systems, we will always be at the mercy of the big company lobbying expertise.
Mother Earth News once published a "build it yourself" inexpensive design for a wind mill. We collectively need to GO FOR IT.