Archive for January, 2010

Delta Montrose Electric Association Leaves Colorado Rural Electric Association

The Delta Montrose Rural Electric Association (DMEA) has long been the most progressive utility (Let alone electric coop) in Colorado. I wrote about their forward thinking promotion of geoexchange / ground source heat pumps in 2007, long before there was any rule requiring any Colorado utility to have a Demand Side Management (DSM) program.

Now DMEA is taking another step that I find reminiscent of the defections of big businesses from the US Chamber of Commerce last year over the Chamber’s stance on Climate Change legislation. DMEA has quit the Colorado Rural Electric Association (CREA), the lobbying organization for Colorado rural electric cooperatives.

I’ve testified on several energy bills in the Colorado Legislature, and whenever it had any thing to do with electrical utilities, CREA representatives have shown up, and always to testify on the wrong side of the bill (At least as far as clean energy is concerned.)

Unfortunately, DMEA is unlikely to start a stampede for the doors at CREA… apart from DMEA, all the rural electric coops I’m familiar with in Colorado are extremely backward looking.

Press release follows:
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My Microwave, GE, and a Failure of EcoMagination

I’ve long been a fan of General Electric’s (GE) Ecomagination initiative.  I believe that CEO Jeff Immelt believe that more efficient and renewable energy products will be strong growth industries for years to come.  I quoted him in early 2007, “Renewable energy, energy efficiency, environmental technology – we’re going to own it."

But being green goes much deeper than selling Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency products.  It’s also about product lifecycle.  A truly green company makes sure that the lifecycle of their products will have low impact on a Cradle to Cradle basis.

That’s where my microwave comes in.  I bought it a year and a half ago, and it started losing power at the oddest moments, and then coming back on unpredictably.  It seems to me the most likely problem is loose power connection, which should be simple to repair.  GE provides only a 1 year warranty, but I hate to recycle something so new that it looks like I just got it off the shelf of the store, so I looked for a place I could drop it off to get it repaired.

GE doesn’t do drop offs after the warranty date.  Instead, they want to send a service technician out, at a cost of $70 for the house call, plus parts and labor.  In other words, I’m practically guaranteed to have to spend more than the microwave cost new to get it repaired.  

If it had been during the warranty period (1 year), I could have dropped it off where I bought it.  Why can’t I do that after the warranty period, if I pay for the repair?

In sum, I see some easy improvements that GE could make to become greener with their appliances, not just their wind turbines and locomotives:

  1. Stop building appliances so cheaply that they fall apart so quickly.  This is the subject of an excellent book I finished recently, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, which is worth a read.
  2. Extend the warranty to a reasonable length (say 5 years) and advertise it heavily.  After all, if the appliance were built right, warranty service would not be expensive to implement.  Am I the only one who hates to have to recycle (or worse, throw away) an appliance after 18 months?  I doubt it.
  3. Better yet, institute cradle to cradle practices, taking the appliance back at the end of its life.

In April, GE announced that they had started an initiative for lifecycle assessment of their products.  It’s awfully nice that they’re doing a study, but I really don’t need a study to tell me that not giving me the option to drop off my microwave for repair when it’s 18 months new is not helping its lifecycle environmental impact.

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