New England

Vermont Utilities Urge Customers to ‘Defeat the Peak'

Electricity providers hope consumers can take steps to conserve energy in hot weather

With temperatures soaring, New England utilities hope consumers can curb their power use. Doing so could save cash for the whole region.

“Everything we can do to lower that use saves everybody,” said Kristin Carlson of Green Mountain Power.

Montpelier, Vermont's National Life Group, a thousand-person office full of computers, lights, television monitors, and a busy air conditioning system, is trying to help reduce regional demand.

“We use a lot of power,” acknowledged Ross Sneyd of National Life Group.

But National Life unplugs from the grid entirely for a few hours on select summer days.

Instead, it relies on diesel generators as it tries to help Green Mountain Power cut electricity use when the regional supply is most in demand.

“We don’t want to be spending diesel fuel to supply the buildings, but in an emergency, we’re happy to do it,” Sneyd said.

The amount of energy we use at a specific peak of regional consumption is a big factor in the yearly cost to utilities for wholesale power.

That peak usually comes when cities like Boston and Hartford are the hottest.

Several Vermont utilities, including Green Mountain Power, Vermont Electric Cooperative, and Burlington Electric, have predicted peak summer usage could possibly come some afternoon this week.

If your light company can somehow cut usage at those moments when the grid is most stressed, it could slash hundreds of thousands of dollars on what it pays for power.

Those savings would be passed onto you in the form of lower or more stable rates on monthly bills.

“When a big company like National Life does it, it’s going to save you as a homeowner at home,” Carlson said.

Burlington Electric just launched a new incentive program to help it “Defeat the Peak.”

If enough customers turn up their thermostats a few degrees, delay doing laundry, or turn off lights when demand spikes — helping BED meet its consumption reduction goals — it’ll donate $1,000 to city non-profits.

BED declared a “Defeat the Peak” day for Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.

The first recipient of a donation, if reduction goals for Thursday are achieved, is the Humane Society of Chittenden County, said Neale Lunderville of Burlington Electric.

“Burlingtonians love to give back,” Lunderville said. “So we see this as a great way to inspire community-wide saving, we’ll hopefully achieve our goals, and we’ll help some worthy charities.”

Vermont Electric Co-op spread the word to its customers urging power conservation for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, from the hours of 3 to 7 p.m. each day.

“If VEC members can collectively beat the peak by conserving electricity during peak energy times, they can help to control costs that impact electric rates,” CEO Christine Hallquist said in a written statement. “In a cooperative, when one member conserves, we all save.”

VEC suggested the following steps to help reduce consumption:

• Turn off all unnecessary lights.

• Delay the use of major appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers until after the alert time has passed.

• Reduce use of air conditioning as much as safely possible.

Green Mountain Power said in addition to more energy generation like solar, the future face of power management for communities and large users of power may feature battery storage, to turn to on these potential peak days.

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