Author Archives: jhobfoll
Nostalgic in Houston
Whether you’re a lifelong Houston resident, a transplant or someone who has moved on, we all have a memory, place or experience that is undeniably Houston. This on-point photo show in the Houston Chronicle provides 30 excellent examples of perfect Houston nostalgia.
Case in point: “Go kart tracks everywhere.” Seriously. Where have all the go-karts gone?
And another excellent example: “Oddly shaped burger joints.” Though the prevalence of tacos is alright by me.
And what makes it the perfect piece of nostalgia? If it doesn’t exist anymore! Check out 30 Things Houston has Lost Over the Years.
How will the Solar next door impact my property values?
As I wrote about recently, Illinois is rolling out some generous incentives to encourage Solar Energy development. In particular, Illinois has set aside incentives for what is called “Community Solar.” Those projects are about 10 to 20 acres and for technical reasons (to get their power on to the grid) have a decent chance of being located near existing residential properties.
As the zoning for these types of projects moves forward we can expect to begin to hear from the NIMBY or Not In My Back Yard contingent. I can understand their fear, as a recent article out of Indianapolis points out, residents that have grown accustomed to vistas of swaying grasses are concerned about having to look at solar panels instead.
But, does living near a solar farm actually hurt your property values? Since community solar is still relatively new, it is probably too soon to tell. However, we are able to look at how wind farms (which experienced a boom in the last decade) have impacted local residential property values and draw comparisons. As it turns out there are domestic and international studies on the topic that show no impact to residential property values as a result of being located near new wind farms. I somehow doubt that the data will stop the NIMBY folks from showing up however.
Whatever happened to VW’s $3B settlement?
Statement of the obvious: $3 billion is a lot of money. Remember when there was a continuous drumbeat of news about Volkswagen’s emissions scandal? Volkswagen ended up settling with the USEPA for violations of the Clean Air Act and buying back many of the vehicles impacted by the scandal.
What (you may be wondering) became of the $3 billion? One cool way it is being used is to reduce school bus emissions through the purchase of electric school buses. I’m not sure if it was the vinyl seats or the diesel emissions (or some combination of the two), but I definitely remember some troubling smells when I was riding my school bus as a kid. In fact, according to a press release from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, health officials have asserted that “children’s asthma hospitalizations and missed school days would be greatly improved with widespread adoption of electric school buses.” So there is truly damage being caused by those caustic smells; not to mention the extra emissions coming from those many hours of idling and running buses.
Hopefully the bulk of those settlement dollars will go to projects that will overcompensate for the negatives that necessitated the settlement.
Top States for Renewable Energy? You won’t believe it.
If I asked you to guess which states produce the most renewable energy, what would you say?
You might think of California or Hawaii with their headline grabbing progressive policies on setting the highest renewable standards. Perhaps you’d envision extremely sunny states like New Mexico or Arizona where solar energy development has expanded.
Would Idaho or Iowa come to mind? You might be surprised to know that rural (and more conservative) states are the top renewable energy producing states when ranked by this nifty interactive map from the Department of Energy.
However, dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that there is some controversy (there always is) when it comes to what the Energy Information Agency considers renewable. From the above linked CNBC article:
Renewable energy comes from a source that is naturally replenished and not depleted when used. The U.S. Energy Information Administration classifies solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal energy as renewable… Some of the accepted sources also attract their own controversy as “renewables,” including hydroelectricity and biomass.
There are some great tools on the EIA website to play around with if you’re curious which states are producing the most (insert type of) energy. For example, wind or (this example actually comes from the Solar Energy Industry Association) solar. Have fun clicking around and always remember to read a layer deeper when you see an attention grabbing headline. 🙂
Solar Gold Rush in Illinois (and beyond)
I grew up in Illinois and still have many family members there, so I tend to pay attention to the news out of the Prairie State. Unless you live in Illinois (and pay attention to energy news) you may have missed that Illinois is on the precipice of a solar gold rush resulting from legislation adopted by the general assembly in December of 2016. But you couldn’t be blamed since most of the news coverage made little to no mention of the huge solar program included in the legislation.
The legislation was covered through the lens of nuclear power. “Huh?” you’re scratching your head…”I thought we were talking about solar.” Allow me to explain.
Illinois generates more electric from nuclear power plants than any other state with 11 operating nuclear reactors. The plants where those reactors are housed are not especially young, either. So the companies that operate them asked the legislature for approval to raise electric rates to pay for improvements to the plants. However, one of the ways that the company got the legislation passed was by agreeing to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from ratepayers to help subsidize the construction of a lot of new solar energy in Illinois. This helped get environmental lobbying groups on board.
“Wait…” you’re thinking as you look outside on this cold, grey, winter day in Illinois, “solar in Illinois?” I was curious about this too, but it turns out that the technology used in solar panels has advanced (and keeps advancing) at a rate that makes it work even in northern climates. States like New York and Minnesota have had aggressive programs in place for some time now. In sunny states like Hawaii and California, they’re setting goals of producing 100% of their electric from renewable.
These developments paint a rosy picture of a future where we will rely on less carbon producing technologies, but it does cost. Illinois has enjoyed relatively cheap electric, but rates are on the rise. I, for one, am happy that some of those increases are helping shepherd in new, clean electric production and not simply being used to maintain the old and less efficient technologies.
Extra Holiday Cash: Energy Simply Offers Holiday Referral Bonus
Holidays are right around the corner. Regardless of how you celebrate it is a natural time of the year to worry about money. Instead of worrying, we can help you make extra money just by posting on social media sights. It’s completely free, no commitment, no tricks or gimmicks.
From December 15th until January 15th we are offering existing customers $30 for every new customer they bring in. That is triple our regular referral bonus of $10.
Recruiting new customers can be very easy; one of the most effective ways is posting to social media. But there are ways to make this method more effective:
- Post to a neighborhood or private group in Facebook: Does your neighborhood have a Facebook group? It’s easy to find out. If you live in the “Smithtown” area of Anywhere, USA, simply search for “Smithville Neighborhood Group” in Facebook. Chances are you’ll find your group and you can send a request to the moderator to join. Once the moderator approves you, you’ll be able to post. TIPS: You may not want to be too “salesy” right off the bat – your message may get flagged or taken down or just ignored. Instead, share a simple message about why you’re a happy customer. “Hey Smithtown Friends: If you’re sick of dealing with electric companies you can try EnergySimp.ly. They find the cheapest electric and auto-switch you. I was surprised how much they saved me.”
- Join Next Door: Chances are there is a Next Door group for your area. NextDoor.com is like Facebook but limited to just your neighborhood. To find out, just go to www.NextDoor.com, enter your address and email and take it from there. What’s cool is that you can then invite your neighbors to join by sending them a free postcard. It’s fast and easy to start a Next Door group for your area too. Once you’ve joined you can use the same basic message for Next Door as you did for Facebook. Keep it simple: “Hi Neighbors, I’ve saved a lot of money on my power bill and a lot of hassle when I became an Energy Simply customer. They’re not a power company, they choose the cheapest for me and handle all the switching too. You should try it – just go to: INSERT LINK
- Friends and Family: There is no simpler way than strong-arming encouraging family members that they should save money on their electricity. Pass the time with family this Holiday Season showing friends and family just how easy our sign up process is by sitting them down with their power bills and going to EnergySimp.ly.
Think about how you make purchasing decisions. With so many options and potential pitfalls how can you make the right decision? How can you be sure that you are getting the best price and not getting taken advantage of? Referrals are the strongest source of customer growth because it is built on trust. If you’ve had a good experience, share it so that other people can share the joy of saving money and being stress free.
Comed Customer? Your rates are about to go up.
Commonwealth Edison (or Comed for short) is the electric utility that covers most of the Chicagoland Region. According to their website, they supply more than 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois. While it is no secret when their rates are scheduled to increase, many of their customers will be surprised to know that rates are guaranteed to keep climbing incrementally over the next two years.
The current Comed rate is 6.318 cents per kWh. That means if you’re an average user (average sized house, family, appliances etc) your cost might be about $63 bucks per month, not including delivery charges and other fees outside of the cost of electric. Over the next couple years Comed is stepping up prices:
- June 2017 = 6.89 cents per kWh
- October 2017 = 7.15 cents per kWh
- June 2018 = 7.54 cents per kWh
If you’re doing the math then you’ll see that an average user might see a $12/month increase or $144/year. And if you’re an above average user of electricity (heated swimming pool, larger home etc.) your pocketbook will get hit even harder.
Because these prices are tied to the base price of electricity, alternative suppliers will also see increases, but if you’re currently a Comed customer it is a good time to begin shopping the alternative suppliers and actively monitor your costs.
Sure you’ve got the best electric price?
States like Texas and Illinois that have deregulated their electric markets are counting on informed consumers to find their own best prices. However, there are a couple of reasons why this doesn’t work.
A little more than a year ago, I was knocking on doors in a Houston neighborhood to survey homeowners about their electric purchasing experiences. One gentleman in particular stands out. He was retired, friendly and very willing to boast about the “best” price his contact had “hooked him up” with. Perhaps too quickly, I asked if he’d share his per kilowatt hour price with me. Hesitantly he let me know that he was paying .14 cents per kilowatt hour. THAT IS ALMOST DOUBLE WHAT HE SHOULD BE PAYING!
Unfortunately where the system breaks down is that consumers are busy and finding the right price is not a straightforward task. Purchasers often just have to rely on trust in what marketers are telling them and sadly those marketers are not always honest.
You’re paying too much for electric
It is time you just own up to that fact. You have to pick the plan and you’re not quite sure the Power to Choose website is the best way to do it. Maybe you decided to just pick the one where the really nice guy came to your door and told you it was the best price. Perhaps you picked a plan, but now have just defaulted into whatever variable rate went away after the lower, introductory rate. Maybe you just don’t want to THINK ABOUT IT!
There are solutions out there. There is a growing field of service providers that choose and switch you into different electric plans so you never have to worry about it. There are a couple of things to watch out for however.
- Price. Some of those companies (think: Green Man-Eating Giant) simply charge too much. $120 bucks a year? Those prices would turn me into an ogre too.
- Truly Independent? There is a cottage industry in brokering between consumers and electric providers. Most of those brokers take a kick back from the electric company so they may not have your best interests at heart.
We were founded with the consumer in mind. We knew there were enough fed up consumers in Texas that we could charge a really fair price ($5 bucks a month) and maintain our 100% loyalty to YOU, the consumer. We’re your ally, we’ve got your back. Now stop paying too much for electric!