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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey: Consumers Have a Right to Know About Their Electricity

Markey’s “e-KNOW” Bill Would Give Consumers Access to Home Energy Usage Information; Would Fulfill Two Recommendations of FCC Broadband Plan

 Full bill text | e-KNOW Basics | Chairman Markey’s Statement of Introduction

Consumers can look at a box of cereal and see calories and fat content. When a consumer steps onto a car lot, they can look at window stickers that show the fuel efficiency and safety features. And yet, when consumers flip a light switch, run the clothes dryer, or turn on the air conditioning, the only information available comes in a monthly bill, which includes little or no information on pricing, and on their day-to-day, or minute-to-minute energy use.

Responding to the lack of information provided to consumers about their electricity use, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced a bill that will give consumers access to free, timely and secure data about their electricity prices and usage patterns so they can take charge of their energy use and save money on utility bills. 

“Whether it’s corn flakes or cars, consumers make better decisions when they are armed with real, usable information on products. Consumers want to do the right thing when it comes to saving energy, but they need the right tools to do it,” said Rep. Markey, chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. My e-KNOW bill will give consumers the knowledge they need to make decision on how they want to power their lives.”

The bill, the Electricity Consumers’ Right to Know Act -- or “e-KNOW” – is a vital part of the larger effort to establish an American Smart Grid that combines the advances in telecommunications technologies with a push for energy efficiency. E-KNOW would ensure consumers have secure, private, electricity information access in near real-time for the 80 million homes and businesses that are expected to be outfitted with “smart meters” by the end of this decade.

Even for those consumers without smart meters, simply having better information about their electricity use has been shown to reduce total consumption by 5 to 15 percent, providing annual savings of $60 to 180 for the average American household.

The e-KNOW bill fulfills two key recommendations of the National Broadband Plan released by the Federal Communications Commission. Specifically, the plan recommends Congress consider national legislation to cover consumer privacy and ensure consumers’ accessibility to their energy data, and the e-KNOW bill would do exactly that. It also adopts the Plan’s recommendation that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility that will help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies.

“We’ve gone from the black rotary dial phone to the Blackberry, but when it comes to electricity information, we still have to dial-up our utilities and ask for information,” continued Rep. Markey. “With my e-KNOW bill and a new, American-built Smart Grid, the same people who work on killer apps for an iPhone will now help you know how much energy you use from your iFridge, iStove, or IToaster.”

Providing customers with access to their energy use will not happen by itself. One recent study of a number of large utilities found that of the almost 17 million new smart meters they planned on delivering to consumers, only 35 percent had clear plans to provide customer access to the data. Less than 1 percent of these utilities’ customers have real-time access to electricity data today.

Google and Microsoft are just two of the companies that have already created web-based energy visualization tools. The e-KNOW act will allow new energy information entrepreneurs to flourish, and will help American consumers and businesses save money through a fully-deployed Smart Grid. With full roll-out of smart grid technologies, the Pacific Northwest National Lab estimates that conservation efforts resulting from consumers’ access to information will reduce residential and commercial electricity demand by 6 percent. This would save businesses and consumers more than $15 billion annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly: 92 million metric tons annually in 2030, equal to the emissions of 16 large coal power plants.

“e-KNOW will give electricity consumers the power to stop looking at a monthly utility bill to know what it all costs, and instead go on the web and know what a watt costs that very minute,” concluded Rep. Markey. “Consumers have a right to know this information, and e-KNOW will provide it.”

PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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