While we have not had the opportunity to write about it until now, Overbrook Staff would like to highlight the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) November report on “The State of the Utility Bill”. This report provides an academic look at the history and evolution of the utility bill, statistics on the type of information that consumers can generally find on their bills, and an analysis of this data with an emphasis on possible improvements to increase sustainable electric, heat and water consumption. It positions the utility bill as a communication device rather than yet another monthly bill to be paid. While many utility bills include previous month and previous year comparisons of energy use, this report explores a need for increased context of the consumer’s energy use. Report authors found that almost 90% of the bills were missing "pro-efficiency messaging, energy efficiency-specific tips and contacts, and peer comparisons - that may motivate consumers to take energy-saving actions”. They have discovered differences in energy savings between consumers based on the frequency of publication, the content and the precision of the information found in the bills. Not only does this report shows consumers what numbers they should look at when attempting to decrease their own utility consumption and costs, but it also offers concrete arguments and steps for the revision of utility bills by the utility companies.
The Overbrook Foundation is proud to have supported the research and writing of this important report as part of our Environment Program's focus on domestic sustainable consumption and production. This valuable tool can now be used by activists, consumers and members of the utility industry to improve utility bills in the future. ACEEE hopes that small changes in bills reaching millions could have a significant impact on American consumption habits. Foundation Staff has learned that the report had already been downloaded 405 times in the first few weeks after its publication, so we hope the success of its transmission and impact continues and expands. Despite difficulties to change behaviors, we are excited to be a part of the process to identify critical spaces that can have real impact on American consumption.
Click here for a link to the ACEEE blog where Ben Foster, one of the report's authors, has summarized the findings and implications of the fuller report. While, you can also download the complete version of "The State of the Utility Bill" by clicking here and following the instructions on the web page.