Saving co-op power by going without it

Why would anyone willingly go without electricity — no air conditioning, fans or lights — on a hot summer day? How about to get a nice break on their bill?

That’s what’s happening at Corn Belt Energy, Bloomington, Ill., with a ­program so popular the co-op can’t accommodate everyone who’s interested. Some 2,500 members are on “Rate 11.” From June 1 through Sept. 30, the co-op can cut all power to their homes for up to three hours, any weekday except holidays, in exchange for a lower year-round rate.

“It is a very unique program,” said Justin Stuva, Energy Advisor at Corn Belt. A signal is sent to a radio-controlled unit mounted on the home’s meter, which “effectively kills their power like they are experiencing an outage.”

Unfortunately, the company that made the switch stopped doing so and the co-op is ­looking for a new technology. It will likely be a switch that works with the co-op’s advanced metering infrastructure and smart meters. That will allow the co-op to add more members.

When there is a peak in demand ­several thousand emails and texts are sent to participants warning them of the event. So what’s in it for people to voluntarily go powerless? “Annually, it averages out to about 14 percent off of what they would be paying if they were on our regular residential rate,” Stuva said.

Together the members are helping shave roughly 6.5 megawatts of load from the co-op’s peak demand.

Source: Electric Co-op Today