GE brings good schemes to life. Consider its recently announced “net-zero energy home” initiative.
The program calls for the installation in homes of networked appliances powered by home-based solar panels and wind turbines. So what’s not to like about homes that are energy self-sufficient?
Even accepting the GE fantasy that homes can be net-zero users of energy, that sadly does not mean that the cost of that energy is zero.
The system will add about 10 percent to the cost of a home, according to GE — a price that likely would take more than a decade to pay for itself.
GE’s net-zero-energy plan amounts to little more than a shift in check-writing.
Instead of writing monthly checks to your local utility for the energy you actually use, you’ll just write one big check to GE (or your contractor) upfront — a payment that might or might not cover a decade or more of home energy use and that probably does not include any maintenance costs for your system. Additionally, since most people borrow to purchase their homes, you’d essentially wind up financing you electric bill over the life of your mortgage, further adding to the cost of the system.
If your home turns out not to be net-zero-energy, you’ll still wind up writing those monthly checks to your local utility while GE and your contractor bask in the unearned glow of the original upfront payment.
Beware: green or clean energy — whatever you want to call it — is the new snake oil. It’s sad that the only sort of energy innovation occurring today is based more on financial shenanigans (cost-shifting, subsidies and worse) than technologies to produce more energy at less cost.