EXPLAINING ENERGY CHOICES
||Stories about electricity deregulation tend to be wallpapered
with video of powerlines and generators. They're dull to watch,
and hard to understand. You might think you're better off just
avoiding the subject. Don't. When deregulation comes to your
state, it will affect everyone in your community.
To help viewers make sense of this complicated issue, produce
stories that are interesting to watch and easy to follow. Here are
some strategies you can try. If you do a story that turns out well,
please let us know so we can
feature it on the NewsLab website.
Be sure to consult our guide to Internet resources on deregulation
for links that can add context to your reporting.
Find a New Frame
- Use an analogy to explain what deregulation means and how it
works. Compare it to something viewers already understand, like
what happened to the telephone industry, for instance.
- Compare deregulation to other shopping experiences viewers
may be familiar with. For example, you could use a market analogy,
in which organic produce (like "green" energy) costs
- Compare "introductory offers" from utilities to the
low interest rates offered by credit card companies for a limited
time. Explain how long these rate deals last, and what the cost
will be when they expire.
- Look for another service that works the way the new system
works, with separate production and distribution units. The current
provider may become something more akin to a delivery service,
bringing what you ordered to your door.
Make it Personal
- Analyze one person's electric bill. First see if they can explain
it to you. Then take it apart and show what each charge means.
How much electricity are they using, when, and what do they pay
for it? Explain how that would be different under the new system.
Recalculate the bill and show the results.
- Talk about energy use by showing appliances in someone's home,
rather than power plants and other more abstract visuals. Get
specific and provide details about energy use that viewers can
- Focus on one person's decision-making process to explain the
choices facing all your viewers. Ask how this person will decide,
what information they need, and how they'll get it. The answers
could help you shape additional stories.
- Find people or businesses who will be affected by deregulation
plans by checking state Public Utility Commission filings for
statements or complaints. Look at residential and commercial users
to see who gets a better deal.
Compare and Contrast
- Report on other states' experiences with electricity deregulation,
particularly neighboring states. Have the promises been kept?
- Check the history and record of new suppliers who will enter
your electricity market.
- Provide tools to help viewers evaluate offers. Post a rate
calculator or shopper's comparison sheet on your website, or have
your consumer reporter develop a packet you can mail to viewers.