Greenville Utilities is partnering with a manufacturer of automatic thermostats to conduct a pilot project to help homeowners save electricity.
GUC customers who use Ecobee smart thermostats will be able to enroll in a program that will allow GUC to adjust the temperature of their thermostat during peak electrical demand usage, said John Worrell, director of electrical systems.
Participating customers will receive a one-time $50 credit on their bill as an incentive as well as a $5 monthly credit for each thermostat enrolled in the program, Worrell said.
The program is estimated to save one kilowatt of electricity per device, he said. One kilowatt is equivalent to burning 10 100 watt light bulbs for one hour.
GUC wants to launch the pilot program in March. Up to 500 participants will be accepted.
“We will evaluate the effectiveness of this pilot project to determine if we should expand it to all smart thermostat manufacturers,” Worrell said.
A smart thermostat is an electronic thermostat controlled via apps or the internet, said Steve Hawley, GUC’s communications manager.
Peak demand for electricity use is a one-hour period when power consumption is exceptionally high, Hawley said. Peak demand periods typically occur when air conditioning use increases dramatically or when outside temperatures are extremely low.
The cost of electricity during this one-hour period is significantly higher than other periods, accounting for about half of GUC’s total energy bill for a month, Hawley said.
“Reducing the amount of energy used during these times helps the whole community save money,” he said.
According to Hawley, peak power consumption typically occurs on non-holiday weekdays during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. during the heating season and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the cooling season.
GUC officials said the maximum number of savings events per month is eight and savings events will last no more than six hours.
Promotional materials that GUC prepares for the pilot program indicate that participating customers should experience little to no temperature change during a savings event, but that depends on an individual’s comfort setting, outdoor temperature and humidity and structural insulation.
Information about joining the pilot program will be posted on www.guc.com when launched.
Cannon said the pilot program will give GUC the opportunity to assess how energy conservation can be achieved in the future.
Since 1978, GUC has operated “Beat the Peak”, a program that connects light switches to electric water heaters, central air conditioners/heat pumps and/or electric furnaces so that they can be turned off during peak periods of electrical use. Participants can save up to $70 per year.
GUC is responsible for the purchase, maintenance and installation of the switches. With smart thermostats, homeowners are responsible for purchasing and installing the equipment.
The launch of a new electricity conservation program comes just as GUC works to secure a large-scale data processing facility that will process large amounts of data needed to mine cryptocurrency and to high performance computing.
The company would become GUC’s largest consumer of electricity.
“The data processing company we are in discussions with would operate with the understanding that when we anticipate a peak time, we would contact them and they would shut down their operations during those events,” Hawley said.