Vt. Corporations Could Bank Millions in Energy Savings

New initiative aims to reduce electricity consumption at periods of peak demand, saving money for large companies that create jobs

A new energy conservation effort from the non-profit Efficiency Vermont is expected to shave a significant percentage off the electric bills of 19 large companies. The firms, including the famous Cabot Creamery Cooperative, are among the state's largest consumers of electricity.

Efficiency Vermont's Industrial Peak Initiative, announced Thursday, aims to reduce consumption at peak times that bring extra charges. That peak demand, like on extremely hot days, forces expensive power-generating plants to come online to meet the boosted need, explained Efficiency Vermont's Jim Merriam. That raises the average rate a customer pays for the entire year, he added.

Efficiency Vermont (https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/) will use custom tools and smart meters to predict when those rate-spiking peaks will occur, and help businesses respond with steps like changing when machines are turned on or investing in new equipment to reduce costs over time.

"The less power we use in Vermont, the less we have to pay for costly transmission upgrades or expensive power," Merriam told New England Cable News. "So while we are focused on 19 companies, there will be a benefit to all Vermonters who pay electric bills."

Eventually, Efficiency Vermont wants to expand beyond the 19 companies, Merriam said, but initially, it expects to save those 19 large employers $1.5-million collectively the first year alone. That is on top of the $5-million a year they're saving through other efficiency efforts, he noted.

Cabot, a well-known maker of cheese, sour cream, dips, and other products, could reduce its power bills by a tenth through taking steps to reduce peak demand, Merriam said. "It's an integral cost of goods," said Ed Pcolar, Cabot's senior vice president of manufacturing, describing electricity.

Numbers Cabot shared with NECN, supplied by the utility Green Mountain Power, showed the cooperative spent about $3.74-million last year to power the conveyor belts, lights, cooling systems, robots, and other machinery in its Vermont facilities. "It's significant," Pcolar said. "Anything we can do to pare that back is very, very important to us."

The peak demand charges for Cabot (http://www.cabotcheese.coop/) amount to about a quarter of its overall electricity costs, Pcolar said. The potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by altering behavior during those extreme use periods means money that could be reinvested in growing the brand, hiring staff, and returning more profits to the co-op's farmer-owners, Pcolar said. "I'm excited about it," he added.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt., praised the new initiative, calling it good for economic development and environmental stewardship. "It's green, it's clean, it creates jobs, and it grows manufacturing jobs, which is critical to Vermont," Shumlin said.

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