National Grid Shame Reports

National Grid Shame Reports

What are National Grid Shame Reports

Every month National Grid does an analysis of your electricity (and methane gas if you are a National Grid gas customer) consumption and compares it to your neighbors; at Newport Solar we often refer to these as National Grid Shame Reports.  We don’t call them National Grid Shame Reports because they are intrinsically negative.  We named them this because they are often misunderstood and have, in the past, made many of our customers feel guilty about their energy and environmental performance.

For the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on the electricity comparison reports.

What National Grid Shame Reports Do Well

These reports have some positive effects for Rhode Island electricity customers; National Grid Shame Reports:

  • Encourage people to use less electricity
  • Help slow the increase in electricity rates
  • Educate people on state programs that can help save them money
  • Raise Electricity Use Awareness

National Grid has good reasons for issuing these reports.  First off, they do encourage people to consume less electricity through a comparative (and somewhat competitive) report; this is a good thing for Rhode Islanders’ wallets and, at first pass (we will get to this later), also good for the environment.  

In addition, believe it or not, when you consume less electricity it also helps National Grid spend less ratepayer money.  National Grid does make money when they sell you units (kilowatt-hours or kWh) of electricity, but they are also required to build out the necessary infrastructure to deliver electricity to their customers. So, if a reduction of electric demand allows them to hold off on building out this infrastructure, it delays the need for a major capital expenditure.  By not spending this money, some of the savings can be passed down to electricity ratepayers.

National Grid Shame Reports also give Rhode Island residents the chance to explore their electricity use, better understand where their kWh/dollars are going, and proactively work to save money by reducing their overall energy use.  The National Grid Shame reports do help to highlight the broad range of state sponsored programs that can help pay for home energy efficiency improvements.  Being aware of your energy use is important, and these reports help to shed light on how much electricity you are consuming.

How the National Grid Shame Reports Could be Improved

Though the reports do have positive effects, they also have some significant room for improvement; National Grid Shame Reports:

  • Do not talk about your overall Energy use; they only talk about your Electricity use
  • Do not talk about when more Electricity consumption is a Good Thing!

Homes consume energy through different resource streams; electricity, gas, oil, propane, and solar radiation are all energy inputs into your home that are used to run electronics, lights, cooling, heating, and other systems. The National Grid Shame reports only compare electricity consumption (or methane gas) in isolation. In order to compare your usage to your neighbors, National Grid will consider a few factors, like square footage, but it can be challenging to account for things like home heating system or user behavior.

Heating our homes with oil, gas, or propane and running our cars on gasoline produce some of the worst environmental impacts in the United States.  In the near term, 100% electrification of transportation and heating is the only way we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change.  This electrification of energy consumption must be paired with renewable electric generation to have the desired reduction in emissions.  Consuming more electricity than necessary is a bad thing for the environment, as right now at least 95% of that electricity in Rhode Island comes from methane gas power plants.  However, overall, our electricity consumption should be going up as we migrate to electric vehicle use and high efficiency electric heating systems such as central air source heat pumps and mini-splits.

How we can make National Grid Shame Reports Better

A great way to improve these reports would be combine them in to one Energy Comparison Report:

  • Combine Gas and Electric use in addition to Oil and Propane
  • Allow User Inputs for Oil and Propane use in the portal
  • Calculate emissions of each resource, show percentage emission impact
  • Highlight opportunities for emission reductions through system changes/upgrades
  • Educate on state or federal sponsored incentives to achieve this end

If we are going to encourage competition between neighbors on something in relation to our energy consumption, it should be a competition that matters and has a goal.  If we really look at energy consumption as a whole, rather than individual resources in isolation, we could work on eliminating CO2 production from personal energy consumption, driving us towards a more sustainable future.

There are companies that have created energy benchmarking platforms which allow homeowners and businesses to input data on their complete energy usage; these platforms provide actionable data that can be used to pursue consumption and emission reductions.  A great example of a company that is doing this is Wegowise.