Energy & Sustainability Science Technology

Wastricity is the use of electricity in a way that provides no personal or public benefit.

There is no public benefit to the money spent lighting streets and the exterior of buildings during the daytime. Who should you talk to when you see municipal money being spent on electricity or other utilities for zero constructive use? How will they respond when you point out that they are burning their budget? Are they planning on going in front of the voters asking for some emergency reprieve in the budget meltdown of the year?

By having devices use electricity and providing no value in return, we are squandering a public resource of fossil fuel derived and grid delivered electricity.

In our personal lives, we use wastricity whenever we leave our phone chargers plugged in to the wall when the phone is not attached. We also use wastricity by leaving gaming systems running while we are out of the house. Leaving lights on in the room when nobody is in the room is classic wastricity.

Do you have enough money in your household budget? Could you find some more money by hunting down wastricity? Does your school system or town have a policy about preventing wastricity? How can your kids or students join the fight against wastricity? Could you create an incentive for people to reduce wastricity?

Wastricity. What can you do to stop it?

20 thoughts on “Wastricity

  1. Keith says:

    Just look up at night anywhere near a big city. Most of that “city glow” light pollution is wastricity.

  2. dnny says:

    There is a flickr group whit more than 700 simillar pictures.


    @Keith, lights are very usefull when its dark at night

  3. Keith says:

    @dnny – Yes, very useful, but lights should illuminate their intended target, not the night sky. Some city glow is due to light reflected from buildings, streets, etc. That’s unavoidable. But many lights (street lights, building “uplights”, etc) send photons directly into the sky, and that’s wasted energy.

  4. Eric M says:

    As a note – lights like the one in the picture are generally not metered. The city taps the power directly and pays a flat negotiated fee to the municipally, regardless of how long it is off or on. I’m not saying that it isn’t a waste, and that the daylight sensor shouldn’t be fixed – but it isn’t actually costing the municipality any money, in fact it would cost them more to fix it in the short run.

  5. T. Hudson says:

    It gets worse for the municipalities — more efficient lights cost them more to operate: http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=fce07cab-0dea-4fc5-b57e-f1145715f01e

    […] According to Henry, the city tested out more efficient 100–watt HPS bulbs in one Little Rock neighborhood about five years ago. When the city asked Entergy to set a rate for those fixtures, it was almost double the rate for the 150-watt HPS type.

    When asked if Entergy was keeping Little Rock from being more energy efficient, Henry said simply, “Yes.”

    “But how do you fight Entergy?” Henry asked. “I mean, we’ve had people come in and show us new, more efficient lights and we’ve said, well, the problem is, it’s not going to save us anything. It will be a whole lot less wattage and it will put light out on the street but we can’t get any benefit out of it because of the tariffs.”

  6. Mark says:

    Sadly, until the cost of electricity skyrockets things like this are just not justified. It would cost far more to pay a city employee to spend his/her time to clean/replace the sensor than it costs to pay the electricity (assuming they could tell the difference).

    Our culture of waste is built on pure profit, case in point: I was reading about how my supermarket fish are caught in Alaska, then shipped to China to be filleted, then back to me so I can buy them…wasteful? you bet, but its still cheaper.

  7. Wilson! says:

    First off, @Eric M:
    True, it may not cost the municipality any money for the electricity, but that power was generated somewhere. In the U.S. that means coal probably was burned to produce those watts. Still wasteful.

    @Mark: Fish caught _in_ Alaska are sent to China? Or fish caught _off_ Alaska? Just curious…

    @Chris Connors (OP): Yes, cell phone chargers use a tiny bit of electricity if plugged in and not charging. It’s not nearly as much as the myths circulating online. You probably used more energy making your post than your charger uses in several months of inactive use. I looked into building a switched charging station, until I looked into how much energy is really being wasted, and realized it’d take a good long time to recoup the cost of the parts to build it.

  8. Garp says:

    Back in my old home town there was a local retired citizen who used to walk the streets once or twice a week. He considered it part of his fitness regime. He’d go down most of the streets in the town and make a note of every street light that was still on when it shouldn’t be and sent a note in to the local town council who when the had enough lights badly configured to make it worth it, would send out someone to go fix them. Whilst initially the council seemed a little bothered by this citizen, they soon saw the savings they were beginning to make, enough that they finally made it their job to go do the drive about.

    More recently some of the newer lights going in have been the low energy LED based ones that cause minimal light pollution, and also have a Solar cell on the top. When the light level drops below a certain amount on goes the light, when it’s above a certain amount, the light goes off. Simple, effective, and the solar cell is also used to offset the electricity needs of the light.

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