Hearing for Transparency Bill, June 8th

On Wednesday, June 8th 2011, at the Joint Committee hearing on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, many bills were presented mainly relating to the high costs of utilities state wide, their burden on large industrial companies as well as individuals, the leakage problem with natural gas and the need to replace the outdated pipe system.

State Representative Will Brownsberger and his panel testified for the House Bill number 01758, which proposes that energy distribution companies make the history of individual buildings’ energy usage of available to the public. Brownsberger brought together a panel of 6 to discus in detail some of the various positions on the situation. Many interesting and valid points were brought up in support of this policy change.

Energy efficiency is something on the minds of most homeowners these days with the general increased awareness of “going green” as well as the recent recession motivating people to find more ways to save money. Being able to transform your home into a more efficient machine and knowing that you’re accomplishing this goal is imperative, especially at this time.

Home and building owners should be able to check the references of energy efficiency contractors by being able to look up the data on the energy consumption of other households before and after said contractor’s work. After they make a change themselves, home and building owners should be able to check their own statistics and make sure their houses are really using less energy and saving them money. Prospective tenants and future home buyers, especially with low to moderate incomes, want to know that the place they are considering investing in is really as good as it seems, of if it will suck them dry through an unnecessary over-use of heat and water.

On the other side, contractors would gain an advantage if they were able to pick out the houses that are “sick” and could do with an efficiency upgrade by being able to see these reports. The homeowners might not even be aware of the cost of their house’s inefficiency but if contractors were able to show the numbers they would easily gain more business, which would create jobs locally – a priority of many.

This data of individual buildings’ energy consumption is something the distribution companies already have, making these numbers public would be no cost to them. Unfortunately, these statistics are currently quite difficult for one to get her or his hands on, making this a problem for contractors to look up and know if they are really doing the job they intended.

It’s possible that not everyone will be comfortable with her or his energy use information being out there for anyone to see. Adjustments could be made to the act that would show an average over the year of how much energy is being used, rather than month-by-month, or week-by-week. It is also possible for a privacy clause to be enacted for those who don’t wish to share, continuing to make this a win-win situation for all.

Currently, Cambridge Massachusetts is already using this transparency policy, which has proven to be just as beneficial as it seems. The Cambridge Energy Alliance, a non-profit service helps “residents and business owners invest in making their homes and buildings work smarter and more efficiently,” has been able to use this information to turn Cambridge into one of the most energy efficient cities in Massachusetts.

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