Colorado energy customers can calculate footprint
The Denver Post
Xcel Energy customers in Colorado soon will have the ability to access their usage information online and calculate their so-called carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to generate their power and heating needs.
The utility is still deciding whether to provide tools for consumers to determine their overall carbon footprint, which would include emissions that come from transportation and, to a lesser extent, food and clothing.
“What we’re trying to do is help customers understand first what a carbon footprint is and then to give them the information so they can figure it out for their energy usage,” said Teddi Davis, Xcel director of customer choice and renewable marketing. “Customers may choose when they have that information to use less energy as a way to make personal choices around their carbon footprint.”
Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is considered the chief cause of global warming.
The average U.S. household of four is responsible for 83,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Households can cut their carbon footprint by driving less, paying extra for renewable energy or recycling, among other things. For example, driving 20 fewer miles per week would cut a household’s carbon footprint by roughly 1 pound per year. Recycling aluminum throughout the year would cut 582 pounds from a footprint, the EPA estimates.
Renewable-energy advocates and some lawmakers want Xcel, Colorado’s largest utility with 1.6 million customers, to go one step further and provide emissions information in the bills it mails to customers.
Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, introduced legislation this year that would have required all utilities in the state to publish emissions information in consumer bills. The legislation stalled in a House committee.
“People are pretty knowledgeable about cars as sources of pollution, and they know when the car is more fuel efficient that that’s good for the planet,” said Brenda Fosmire, who helped Green craft the bill. “But that gut correlation of how much energy you’re consuming in your house and its relationship to carbon going into the atmosphere is just something the public doesn’t understand well.”
Xcel said online, and not in paper bills, is where the information should be disclosed.
“We don’t believe that the bill is the right place for that information,” Davis said. “It doesn’t give the context. It doesn’t make it actionable for the customer.”
The online carbon footprint tool is part of Xcel’s project to provide access to current and historical energy information and allow customers to pay their bills from the company’s website.
Currently, customers can only start and discontinue service on Xcel’s website. To pay bills online, they have to go to a third-party site.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of September.