Photo Credit: Mary via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY
Oklahoma isn't exactly a state that's known for its progressive energy policies -- its constituents, after all, continually elect Senator James Inhofe, who's perhaps the least green man in all the US Congress. But that hasn't stopped the state electric company from pioneering a pilot program designed to cut energy use during peak hours (part of the motive for this is a desire to increase efficiency instead of invest in costly upgrades needed to crank up the state's power plants). And guess what? It was a success. Those participating in the project slashed energy use by an impressive 33%. Here's how the program works. CleanTechnica reports:
In order to delay adding any new fossil-fuel generation until at least 2020, an Oklahoma utility is trying a pilot program; pricing electricity based on Time of Use (TOU). Oklahoma is very dependent on fossil fuels, (as you might deduce from its Senator, Jim "global warming is a hoax" Inhofe). The results are staggering ... 2,500 homes were first set up with a web portal that displayed the cost of any energy-related action in real time, to help them decide when to use appliances. Then customers were put on TOU pricing that encouraged shifting energy use to non peak times.Basically, the web portal tells energy consumers how much it costs to run appliances like the dishwasher, washing machines, dryers, and such at different points during the day. Using energy during peak hours, like early evenings when everyone's home from work and turning on the lights and the TV, is both more expensive to the individual and a greater burden on the grid. Doing things like waiting until you head to bed to turn on the dishwasher, save folks money and lighten the collective load.
This is pretty basic stuff. But the revelation here is that simply having an interactive tool that encourages smarter energy consumption -- and, this is key, along with a pricing scheme that rewards such behavior -- can yield truly significant savings. If the entire nation were able to better manage electrical usage so that we saw a drop anywhere near 33%, it would result in unprecedented emissions reductions.
And TOU pricing is something that we might see a lot more of in the very near future, as utilities tremble at the thought of having to upgrade their dirty old equipment in the face of new pollution standards -- let's hope more utilities start paying attention.