November 19, 2007 Reducing demand from customers for power during peak periods is one way to delay the need for costly new power plants. It will also help to conserve resources and moderate energy prices. Reliant Energy, a Texas-based energy provider, has completed a successful test of a new demand-response system designed to give customers greater control of their electricity usage while reducing demand for power during peak usage periods.
In a first for the retail electric sector, the Energy Saver Partner program utilizes smart meters to communicate with web-programmable thermostats and high-usage appliances in the home like electric water heaters and pool pumps. During times of high electricity usage across the state, the system can be used to increase thermostat settings by a few degrees or cycle off air conditioning systems for short periods of time.
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New "smart" electric meters are being installed in homes across the CenterPoint and Oncor service area. These new devices are interactive and can communicate over power lines or with wireless "zigbee" communications. Reliant is also conducting a separate pilot program on time-of-use pricing and plans to roll out other new products using this technology in 2008.
The Energy Saver Partner program offers customers receive a free web-controlled, programmable thermostat worth US$250, a free 25-point air conditioning inspection of $75 value.
Reliant's pilot is part of a larger study sponsored by the Center for the Commercialization of Electric Technologies to develop demand-response programs. The state's leading electric market participants have begun a two-year study to assess the technology. Findings from the pilot will be shared with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and all Texas retail electric providers to enable new market tools and demand-response programs.