Look on the bright side


We have the technology to generate electricity from renewable resources, but most of our machines, from blow driers to conveyor belts, continue to run on coal. That’s because it is easier to create renewable energy than to transport it. Rigging a new power line from, say, a remote Nevada wind farm to a population center like Las Vegas would be a logistical nightmare. Hundreds of landowners would need convincing and perhaps a few environmental groups as well. On top of all this, the existing century-old power grid is already strained to capacity.

Or at least it was until recently. According to The Wall Street Journal, American energy consumption has unexpectedly dropped. Xcel Energy Inc., which provides power to Colorado among other states, reported that home-energy use fell this fall, for the first time in 40 years. Other large utilities report similar drops. One might blame the grim economy or the vagaries of the weather, but some analysts say the plunge is a permanent trend. Traditional power companies are none too pleased about this turn of events. But there might finally be a little breathing room in those transmission lines for the renewable powers that be.