Congratulations, Missourians. For saving electricity, you could have an additional fee show up on your energy bill:

Some Missouri residents and businesses soon could see a new charge on their electric bills — a fee for using less energy.

Though it might seem illogical, the new energy efficiency charge has support from utilities, most lawmakers, the governor, environmentalists and even the state’s official utility consumer advocate. The charge covers the cost of utilities’ efforts to promote energy efficiency and cut power use.

The assumption is that charging consumers for those initiatives ultimately will cost less than charging them to build the new power plants that will be needed if electricity use isn’t curtailed.

One of the company’s more popular energy-saving initiatives has provided free programmable thermostats to about 34,000 residential customers in Missouri and Kansas. KCP&L can remotely control the devices to reduce the frequency at which air conditioners run during peak demand times. The power company overrode customers’ air conditioners four times last year and twice so far this summer, Caisley said.

“It will allow us to spend a great deal more on energy efficiency, because it holds us harmless” for the cost, Caisley said.”

It holds the utility companies harmless but holds the consumers hostage. With all costs passed on to the consumer, it’s no wonder why utilities are content with this proposal. There is no reason consumers should be forced into buying products they do not wish to purchase. Clearly, those 34,000 programmable thermostats were not free.

If the prices are low enough and programmable devices and other energy-efficient technologies will save consumers on their electricity bill, they will buy the products without the government or utility companies telling them to do so. As with most new products, especially technology-heavy ones, prices tend to be high. But prices often come down quickly for new technology, and consumers should be able to make their own cost-benefit assessment

If these new energy efficiency measures are as economically viable as the politicians, environmentalists, and utility companies purport them to be, it will be an easy decision for consumers. Then they won’t be forced to pay for saving energy.