A new Norwegian electricity directive that will take effect in 2007 will mandate the compliance of Norwegian electricity utilities with the European Unions EL Directive (2003/54/EC, par 6). The EU Directive states that all electricity suppliers will be required to provide their customers with information on the fuel mix and emissions resulting from energy generation. The purpose is to make fuel mix and fuel source pollution more visible. The theory is that this will increase consumer awareness and motivate some consumers to switch to renewable or less polluting energy sources; further, it might lead consumers to take steps to reduce their electricity consumption. It is anticipated that power disclosure labels will also have an effect on suppliers, some of which may be interested in ‘greening’ their profile by increasing their mix of renewables and decreasing fossil fuel or nuclear generated power.
The EU Directive contains some minimum standards for the ways that the power disclosure and emissions information is to be provided, but also allows for some flexibility. For instance, the Directive stipulates that at a minimum the information must be up to date (based on last year), must be provided at least once a year and must be controlled by a government regulator. Beyond that, the form for presentation is left up to suppliers. In Norway, minimal guidelines have been announced to steer the ways that energy suppliers implement power disclosure. These allow considerable leeway in adaptation. For example, important issues such as the information’s placement (on bill or as insert), design, layout and some content issues, such as whether or not a comparative ‘average’ power mix for Norway is provided, are all left up to energy suppliers.
Left unanswered are a number of questions regarding customer response. Some of these were addressed in a pre-study for the EU Commission (Boardman and Palmer 2003) – these will be discussed in section 6. However, only one EU country (Austria) has thus far fully complied with the disclosure directive and no comprehensive post-implementation assessments have been carried out. Thus there have as yet been no post-implementation evaluations in Europe. The USA, on the other hand, has a decade of experience with the implementation of power disclosure information. A first wave of States implemented power disclosure in the late 1990s. By 2005, more than 40% (21) of the US states had implemented power disclosure and an estimated 60% of the US population received power disclosure information (Delmas et al.
2006). The experiences in the USA form a valuable source of insights and information on the pros and cons of various forms for power disclosure. These insights serve as a source for further testing in Norway and as a resource on which Norwegian authorities and energy suppliers can draw in their further development of guidelines and compliance schemes.
In this report, the US experiences with power and emissions disclosure are reviewed and their relevance for Norway discussed. The report is based on interviews with key persons and institutions in California in August 2006, as well as a review of journal articles, reports and web-based information provided by researchers, public authorities, power regulators and energy utilities in the United States. Two questions have directed the research:
- What insights can be gleaned on the strengths and weaknesses of different U. S. programs and information designs?
- What general lessons can be drawn from the US experience on how Norway might go forward to implement disclosure information, accounting for the perspectives of US public authorities, energy suppliers and consumers.
Emphasis will be given to the ways that information has been provided to customers, such as whether information should be provided on the energy bill or as a billing insert; whether a graphical or tabular presentation of the information should be used; whether and how to provide a basis of comparison of a given suppliers power mix with that of others, for example providing the average mix of all Norwegian suppliers. The report will also touch on the issues of tracing power sources and insuring the reliability of the information.