What the Lord Giveth…

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Nerthuz/iStock/Thinkstock and crossstudio/Thinkstock.

Well, there is almost always another side to the story.  I found that out today

when renewing my car’s registration.   Apparently, I am now being “punished” for buying an electric vehicle here in Georgia.  They figured out I hadn’t been paying my fair share of the highway taxes that would normally be buried in my gasoline purchases.

You can read all about it here just as I have.

So, why is it such a public outrage when the electric utilities try to make the same adjustments with solar?

Just like solar, I am now saving very little due to this $200 fee coupled to the low cost of gasoline.  But, I really don’t care.  I like the car.  It’s fun to drive.  And I like that it is electric.


Still Bringing Good Things to Life

I grew up with those GE ads featuring Ronald Reagan with the tag line that they brought good things to life.

My first job out of college was with GE in the nuclear submarine operation called Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, so it is a company near and dear to my heart.

When I started my career in the electric utility industry, I studied how GE positioned themselves as a partner … an advocate … an innovator.  They were always in the power generation business and went into appliances and lights to help build demand for electricity as well as to build loyalty for the GE brand.

So, when I now read that the company that pioneered light bulbs wants to turn off the switch, I see one more twist in the winding road of electric utility relationships.

I doubt any news channel will cover this angle.  Nope, you will hear statements like “General Electric Co is weighing a sale of its consumer-lighting business, which for decades defined the company following its co-founding 125 years ago by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the first viable incandescent lamp.”

 “Exiting the business would be the latest sign that this isn’t your father’s GE. Once associated with refrigerators, microwaves and light bulbs that it sold to consumers, GE is now focused on power turbines, aircraft engines, health-care equipment and locomotives, along with lucrative service contracts for those machines.”

No … that did not define the company.  What defines the company is the original desire of Edison to build the electric generation business.  Once you master building engines, you can use them to power anything from steam turbines generating electricity to engines powering aircraft.  It is also funny to remember that we once thought gas turbines could never be made light enough to be used for flight.

So, GE may exit the lighting business, but the lights are not going out at GE.

Read more about GE on Market Watch.

The Friendly Skies?

You do know what I am referring to.  Well, the tagline seems to be a way to truly ridicule United Airlines this week.

As you know, Susan and I have taught customer service excellence for years, and it just seems to be a new low point…

Even if the customer is not always right, you treat the customer as if they have rights … even if they don’t.

The phrase “The customer is always right” was coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London, and is typically used by businesses to convince customers that they will get good service at this company and convince employees to give customers good service.  The recent United Airlines overbooking incident seems to have grown out of proportion.  We all know painfully well how airlines overbook and the consequent opportunities and threats these produce.  If you are flexible, you may profit.  If you are not, you could be in real trouble if they selected you as they did in this case.

In the court of public opinion, the answer seems clear:

Watch the video posted on USA Today.

You may be within your rights, but you may not be on the right side of the issue.

Employers are learning a sad lesson in hiring … the way they treat prospects who they then don’t hire has a big impact on their brand.

We live in a complex world with social media connecting people in ways we never imagined.

The court of public opinion seems to still conclude that the customer remains always right.


There Goes Another TOU Rate

Because of solar and wind production in California, the California Public Utilities Commission is in a tizzy over what to do with the traditional electric rate design.  We should all take a deep breath and consider the broader implications as we continue to press forward with solar incentives.

“Southern California Edison, for example, already offers time-of-use pricing for the those who sign up for it,” said Edison spokesman Robert Laffoon-Villegas. Under rules imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission, Edison will begin next year to phase in time-of-use pricing for all customers.” Source: Energy Central & Woodland Daily Democrat

Read the article here.

TOU has always had its challenges … not the least of which was that it seldom reflected actual costs.  That didn’t matter much though since the primary intent was to prove to all that customers can and would respond to price signals.  Sure, the ones that knew TOU was a lower rate jumped on it off the standard tariff!

Now, we have real trouble in River City … we have uncertain, counter-intuitive, and flat out complex pricing signals just at the times when people have the fewest easy options to respond.

This will be really interesting to watch.  Hate to be a party pooper … but it sure looks to me like we are racing towards flat rates to recover costs and solve the reliability problem the way we have always done.  Maybe the idea of customers being an integral part of grid reliability is just too complex and uncertain?