“Would you go to bed with me for $20?”

Most have heard the story of the beautiful woman who is asked whether she will go to bed for $1 million.  As the story goes, she says “Sure!”  The guy then asks, then how about $20?  She becomes indignant and says “What kind of girl do you think I am?”  The guy then quips “We have already established that … now we are simply dickering over the price!”

I think you will see the parallels when you consider the antics of this week’s special election here in Georgia.  It has certainly gotten in your local news.  It is the most expensive in history … by a wide margin … so, being the engineer that I am, I did the math.  The estimates are that $50 million was spent on advertising, not to mention the other campaign costs.  The number of votes cast were just over 250,000.  So, it cost $200 per vote.  And, given that most minds were made up long before any of this was battled out, the cost per vote changed was probably well north of $2,000 a vote.

I think a lot of those voters would have much rather received a check for the $2,000.  That would have circulated through the economy and who knows what good things might have emerged.  Instead, we Georgians have endured nonstop commercials for months now.   That is the one thing that now unites us all here: the ads will stop.  But, of course, now the media will go through a frenzy trying to figure out what went wrong for the Dems, whether the Russians interfered with the election, or whether the intense rain kept turnout low.

Thank goodness this is now over!

PSA by PSE About Downed Power Lines

Courtesy Puget Sound Energy

You never know what you are going to see online, especially on Facebook.  One of my friends at church posted his link and I was surprised to see it was from a utility (Puget Sound Energy).

Click here to view this important message from Puget Sound Energy.

It is interesting to see that Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are moving to video to get consumers engaged.  I thought this one was really well done.  But, the costs to script, staff, film, edit and produce this kind of video are high.  The result in this case is excellent, but it is overkill for all too many communication tasks … like explaining why a bill is higher than normal or as a PSA for an upcoming storm.

What we found through careful research is that production values (the excellence in producing the video) really does not matter and can actually backfire in some cases.  Customers can be resentful that you spent so much money trying to communicate a simple message.

In fact, what we found is that the message method (video), especially on phones, can be pretty low resolution and crude … just keep it relevant and interesting.  Use customer-friendly language … stop talking to customers like they understand the technical details.

My hat does go off to PSE in any event … who knew what to do if you hit a power pole?  I didn’t.  And, I am a veteran of the industry.

 

There goes another rubber tree plant

Maybe you remember that phrase from the song High Hopes.  It was made famous by several actors way back around 1960.   Well, the low wholesale electricity prices seem to have created a new worry for the nuclear fleet.

Read more here.

This is going to be very telling.  Is wholesale price the right metric for all power sources?  How can that price capture any value for carbon when carbon is not traded?  Or, does this fear of closing nuclear plants now make it clear that we must price carbon into the market?

Who knew that power once thought too cheap to even meter would now be declared uneconomic?

According to Wikipedia, the phrase “too cheap to meter”  is attributed to Walter Marshall, a pioneer of nuclear power in the United Kingdom.  The phrase was coined by Lewis Strauss, then Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, who in a 1954 speech to the National Association of Science Writers said:

“Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter… It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.”

 

 

A Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Just when the pundits declared coal companies dead in the water, along comes another idea.  Why not use the vast underground network as a pumped storage system?

Read about it here.

Stay tuned to see what the real issues prove to be.  The questions that will emerge are the realities that coal mines are not located near load centers.  The actual power flows on the distribution system as this storage is used must be considered to be sure the source/sink nature to this does not create an overload.  Also, I am sure someone will find a critter in these mines that will now lose their habitat and tie this up in the courts for years.

Things like this never seem to bother the Germans.  I love German engineers.  They get things done when they know they are good ideas.

Algorithms

Illustration: Heather Seidel / The Wall Street Journal

Well, it appears the revenge of the nerds is upon us … at least on Wall Street.  I remember talking to so many people who would state that attempting to pick winners and losers might make the traders rich, but it simply did not benefit the average stock holder.  Even a chimpanzee beat these traders during those years.

Well, as far as the Wall Street Journal is concerned, that time has come. Read more about it here.

The new name for nerds is quants, but nerds they remain.

I just wonder how long this type of person would last talking to today’s energy company leadership or their committees charged with deciding how business analytics can change the business.

I remember like it was yesterday when Enron turned energy trading on its head.  Yes, they also did many illegal things, but they were essentially the first to use algorithms and derivatives to manage something that at the same time was being managed by phone calls and jawboning.

Yes, we also need protections from all these machines that can act before you and I can even see a trend.  Yes, we need rules for commerce that are not in place quite yet, but we have apparently broken the egg … you can’t put it back in the shell and pretend it isn’t cracked.

What are you going to do about it?  And, if you are going there, you can leap ahead by using our robust platform of cutting-edge business analytics defining what is happening in the homes and small businesses you serve … call us.  We built and refine them to serve you.