Utilities push energy-saving incentive programs
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:02 AM
Oklahoma's electrical and natural gas utilities are trying to get even greener, both environmentally and financially, when it comes to energy efficiency programs this year.
The worst of winter may be past, and summer's heat waves a distant worry, but the state's utilities are offering ways for customers to save a little money on bills. Programs include rebates on appliances, incentives to remodel homes for more efficiency and education on ways to lower energy demand.
AEP-PSO, for instance, recently trimmed its energy efficiency offerings from 17 to six programs. The state's second largest electricity provider hopes to save 191 gigawatt hours in generation savings over the next three years.
"We consolidated down to six programs, but we're increasing the incentives offered in those programs," said Eric Raines, manager of consumer programs for American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma.
Rebates range from paybacks for buying compact fluorescent lamps to $50 for energy-rated windows and up to $2,000 or so on helping low-income home- owners pay for efficiency improvements. AEP-PSO's programs are titled High Performance Homes, Energy Savings Products, High Performance Businesses, Business Demand Response, Home Weatherization and Education.
AEP-PSO gave out 18,000 education kits to teachers who distributed them in their classrooms last year. The kits will include light-emitting diode night lights; smart strips, which are like power surge protectors but control energy drain by inactive appliances; and thermometers.
"We're changing the content of the kits," Raines said. "We're getting away from water saving and moving solely toward electrical awareness."
Oklahoma Natural Gas gives out a variety of rebates, from $30 for a furnace checkup to $300 for buying a natural gas clothes dryer. The utility is giving another $100 to consumers who buy gas clothes dryers this Sunday during an event at the Home Depot store at 9808 E. 71st St.
The furnace checkup and new dryers are ONG's most popular rebate efforts. The most expensive, at least to ONG, is up $850 for conversion from electric to natural gas water heaters.
"We've had incredible response in a couple of areas," ONG spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said. "We think the programs really benefit our customers."
ONG has offered its efficiency incentive programs since September 2011. The utility's cost is offset by a 95-cent charge on monthly bills.
Smart-meter technology, which controls usage away from peak hours for customers, is a growing feature of the demand-side response. AEP-PSO installed about 15,000 smart meters in Owasso less than three years ago, while the state's largest utility, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, completed a similar city-wide project in Norman and later in parts of Edmond.
OG&E offers a variety of efficiency programs via its SmartHours pricing program and Positive Energy home certifications. SmartHours benefits customers who receive a price of only 5 cents per kilowatt hour if they use electricity during off-peak hours, compared to a cost up to 44 cents per kilowatt hour for peak-time usage.
"Customers can also receive a programmable SmartTemp thermostat to help automate their savings," OG&E spokeswoman Karen Kurtz said. "The thermostat reads price signals from the smart meter, and customers can program the thermostat to respond to the signals, based on their needs for comfort or maximum savings."
Builders can receive an incentive of $759 under the Positive Energy Home certification program. Those type of homes would include highly efficient HVAC heating and cooling systems, tighter construction, efficient water-heating and higher levels of floor, wall, ceiling and slab insulation.
AEP-PSO paid out $21.9 million worth of incentives last year, company spokesman Stan Whiteford said. The monthly rider, or bill addition to pay for those expenses, totals about $2.21 for customers using an average 1,101 kilowatt hours per month.
Reducing energy usage also reduces revenue for utilities, but Whiteford pointed out that the company benefits from lesser demand on its generation facilities. AEP-PSO can eliminate about 240 megawatts in generation demand from the efficiency offerings.
"To give that 240 megawatts some perspective, the Riverside (Jenks) station's generating capacity is about 1,000 megawatts," Whiteford said. "That's about a quarter of that power plant."
In 2007, OG&E CEO Pete Delaney said he wanted the utility to avoid building any new fossil-fuel generation until at last 2020. OG&E so far is sticking to that timeline, Kurtz said.
Customers can go to the utilities' websites to learn more about the energy efficiency programs.
Energy efficiency programs offered by state utilities
from all customers
||$10 to $2,000
||Bulbs, windows, doors, insulation, new construction
|Oklahoma Natural Gas
||$30 to $1,950
||Furnace checkups, new gas clothes dryers, water heaters
||up to $759 for builders
||Off-peak pricing, smart meters, building certification
Original Print Headline: Saving energy adds up
Rod Walton 918-581-8457
An employee of AEP-PSO installs a smart meter on a house in Owasso. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file