A new study of four rural cooperative utilities in Minnesota demonstrates that behavioral programs based on smart meter data can help customers become more efficient electricity users. And while the results were encouraging, the savings were not overly dramatic, falling within the range of expected outcomes based on other similar programs.
Among the four Minnesota utilities, the average annual residential electricity savings ranged from 1.8% to 2.8% for customers who opted in to the MyMeter program, a web-based system that users can access to manage consumption. The four cooperatives involved in the programs were Beltrami Electric Cooperative, Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Stearns Electric Association, and Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association. The total number of households was more than 14,000.
MyMeter is a software solution provided by startup Accelerated Innovations that features four key offerings for customers who opt in: help with load management and efficiency, visualization of energy use, improved billing options, and a communications platform.
The study compared the four Minnesota cooperatives’ results with two utilities in Massachusetts that had gone through an evaluation of similar efficiency programs. Results from Western Massachusetts Electric’s program showed average savings of 1.9%, while savings among customers taking part in Cape Light Compact’s program averaged 1.5%. Though these results were somewhat lower than the Minnesota figures, the study authors viewed them as within the range of expected savings.
Although they weren’t part of this study, it is useful to note results from Opower, another behavioral-based vendor that helps utilities’ customers lower their energy consumption. Opower says its behavioral programs can reduce energy consumption by 1.5% to 2.5%, on average – close to what the cooperatives achieved.
One benefit of the program for the four Minnesota cooperatives is that the state’s department of commerce has accepted the results and will allow the four to count the savings toward a state-mandated goal, which calls for energy savings of 1.5% of annual retail energy sales for each utility.
The programs used by the four Minnesota cooperatives are a clear example of what can be done when utilities leverage smart meter data by giving customers access to the information and the tools they need to reduce consumption. Other utilities that have deployed smart meters should take note. Behavioral programs can help achieve two goals: meeting regulatory mandates for overall energy reduction and satisfying customers who want new ways to manage their energy budgets.
Tags: Demand Response, Demand Side Management, Energy Efficiency, Smart Utilities Program, Utility Innovations
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