I was invited recently to a briefing on energy efficiency presented by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) in New York City. The purpose of the briefing was to outline the electric power industry’s new approach to energy efficiency. The idea is nothing new, since utilities have been encouraging their customers to use electricity more efficiently since the early 1970s. Energy companies are touting the idea, too. You might have seen the ad by Chevron that states, “We’ve got a huge source of alternative energy all around us. It’s called conservation, and it’s the lowest cost new source of energy we have at hand.” So what is new?
According to Rick Tempchin of EEI (www.eei.org), the group is leading an industry-driven effort to work with regulators and other stakeholders to encourage and reward utility and customer collaboration on energy efficiency and innovative technology applications.
In other words, the group wants to reward utilities and customers for producing Negawatts of electricity, where a Negawatt is a unit of energy saved. An example of this is a program Con Edison has introduced in New York. The utility offers free programmable thermostats to individuals and businesses. In addition to the thermostat, Con Edison supplies a two-way communications box. Not only does the individual or business get to control, for example, a central air conditioning system either manually or remotely using the Internet, but Con Edison can control it, too. On a particularly hot day, for example, Con Ed might raise the temperature on the thermostat a few degrees and thus reduce demand for electricity at a critical time period.
I also saw some software demos showing how you might use your computer to move electricity use, say for a washing machine, from a peak period on a weekday to one that is less expensive at night. Of course, some home networking needs to be in place to do this.
The conference got me wondering how much energy I could save if I really paid attention to it and used technology to help me out. Now, where are those electric bills?
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