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Tomorrow's energy – today

Thousands of New England households have saved over $1m on their energy bills and cut the power they use. It’s down to our Smart Energy Solutions programme putting them in control of their energy and taking strain off the grid, says senior programme manager Nick Corsetti.

Around 15,000 households in Worcester, Massachusetts are glimpsing the future of energy. And, one year into a two-year programme, they like what they’ve seen so far. They’ve cut a combined $1.25m off their energy bills, with 98% of those who joined at the start staying in for the second year. 

We’re happy too. The programme has saved enough power to run the local library for over a year, or more than 5,000 homes for a month. And upgrading our infrastructure with automated switching means we can contain any faults and get power working again up to 75% faster. 

The programme making all this possible is Smart Energy Solutions. The pilot is about helping customers take control of their energy and modernising our infrastructure to cope better with peaks in demand. 

Taking control of energy 

We’ve helped households in Worcester understand how they use their energy – and save money in the process. Smart meters and other electronic devices, like digital picture frames and smart thermostats, tell them how much power they’re using minute to minute. 

Our WorcesterSmart website gives detailed but easy-to-read reports on their power use over set periods, as well as tips on saving power. It means people can make more informed choices about how they use energy. 

Keeping bills down 

We’ve created two price plans encouraging people to help us smooth out peaks in demand. With the Smart Energy Pricing Plan, customers pay a lower rate for daytime power and an evening rate (after 8pm) that’s lower still. When we expect really high demand, we announce ‘conservation days’ in advance. Customers pay a higher rate during 2-8 hour ‘peak events’ on those days. With Conservation Day Rebate, customers pay the usual basic rate for power but get money back if they use less electricity than normal during the peak events. 

Nearly all customers were on the Smart Energy Pricing Plan, saving over $100 on average for the year. Conservation Day Rebate households earned $20 in credits for the year on average, by easing up on the appliances using most power – whether it was turning down the air conditioning or putting off clothes washing until after peak events. Customers with in-home technology cut demand by up to 30% during events. But the impact lasted – over the year, average peak-time power use dropped by 4%. 

We’ll have the full results of the programme soon and will make what we learn part of more smart grid pilots in New England and beyond.

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Published: June 2017