Sunday, June 08, 2014

Free Juice

Have any energy economists written a paper documenting trends in airport electricity consumption over time as more and more travelers seek to find any spare electric socket to recharge for free their phones, tablets, PCs and other mobile devices?   Given my previous post on Tesla recharging and the search for "free juice",  I am now curious about how much electricity demand jumps when people face a zero marginal cost!    Airports represents a place where people are stuck with little to do but wait.  In other settings such as Universities, students face zero marginal cost pricing for water and electricity.  While we claim that we are making our universities "sustainable", an easier way to achieve this noble goal would be marginal cost pricing.  To my deep surprise, people don't listen to me.

UPDATE:  Read this story about Chevy Volt recharging in a public garage.  While I don't know the facts, the author of this piece ignores the possibility that somebody in the condo complex was tired of paying the cross-subsidy for the other family's refueling.  I 100% agree that this doesn't justify vandalism but this example highlights that the heart of this blog post is relevant for civic engagement in settings where people share common resources. In this case, the electricity sockets.

1 comment :

Glenn Cassidy said...

Many (most? nearly all?) resident fees are charged by the semester, up front. Adding monthly fees for utilities would make administration more complicated.

Furthermore, most dorms have shared bathrooms, along with heating/cooling and lighting for common areas that comprise a large portion of the floor area. It would be costly or infeasible to individually monitor consumption. If room electric usage is monitored and common area usage is not, this would create an incentive to plug into the common areas as often as possible.

A university could at least provide second-best incentives to conserve with minimal changes in administrative practices. For example, the university could establish a baseline for each dorm and rebate savings from baseline consumption to the dorm's social activities fund. The baseline could be average consumption across all dorms (or for the specific dorm) in some past period. The university could rebate 100% of the savings from baseline each month to the dorm government's account.