Planet Gore

East River Orchids

The idea that Americans should conserve electricity is one that makes a lot of sense, but an experiment in forced electricity conservation here in New York City is not going over so well. Didn’t all these folks who voted for Obama in November believe in his thermostat-change-we-can-believe-in? The New York Times today:

Like other New York City renters, tenants at a large apartment complex on Roosevelt Island grew so accustomed to one perk that they tended to overlook it: They never paid separately for electricity because it was included in the rent.

But that is set to change. Residents of the 1,003-unit complex, formerly known as Eastwood and now called Roosevelt Landings, will receive electricity bills for the first time in April.

The concept, called submetering, is a pocketbook approach to energy conservation. Instead of being allowed to use heaters, lights and appliances without worrying about the cost, tenants will have to pay for the power they use, which proponents say provides an economic incentive to reduce energy consumption.

Yet the rationale for residential submetering and its more complicated reality have started to clash at Roosevelt Landings and other rental buildings around the city where property owners are planning similar conversions, including two of the largest developments in Manhattan, Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town.

Last week, managers at Roosevelt Landings, the home of many low-income and working-class families, handed out sample electricity bills. The bills, for a 33-day period from November to December, were based on the readings of submeters installed in individual apartments.

Vera Velloso, 40, who lives in a three-bedroom unit with her husband and three children, received a bill for $1,050.43, which was about half of what she pays in rent. Missy Feliciano, 39, who lives in a four-bedroom unit with her mother and three children, was stunned by her bill: $815.51.

Before you get too shocked by these numbers, the Times explains later on in the article that these are on the high end of the sample bills:

Tenants’ bills varied widely. For three-bedroom apartments, they ranged from $79.26 to $1,050.43, and for four-bedrooms from $147.97 to $974.11. Mr. Eisenberg said the readings were accurate, and added that if tenants had concerns about faulty heaters, the management was eager to correct the problem. “I assure you that this office is pretty responsive,” he said.

Here’s an idea. Since these Roosevelt Island renters with the high bills seem to enjoy a terrarium like existence, like President Obama, maybe we should submeter the White House so the Orchid-in-Chief knows how much his tropical office temperature actually costs the U.S. taxpayer?

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