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Energy Efficiency, Doorstep Delivery

image credit: Photo 154437378 © Mwiens | Dreamstime.com

Resting at the top of a stack of the cardboard boxes from Amazon, Target and Costco, I found a box of six 9-Watt LED bulbs at our front door.  Inside was a list of Xcel Energy’s ‘Ways to Save’ tips.   Initially I thought, what a nice surprise but it’s really a timely reminder that even during the pandemic, energy efficiency is achievable and still a priority.  Despite added challenges, utilities continue to promote and support energy conservation and efficiency. Since the start of the pandemic, overall investments are down but awareness is up. In the last few months, Xcel has donated LED bulbs to food banks and provided energy kits to ratepayers in their service areas.  Programs like these encourage community connections and raise awareness about saving energy and money.  “With so many families facing financial challenges due to COVID-19, everyone is looking for ways to save money, and this is a simple way to reduce your energy use and lower your bills,” says Sherryl Volkert, program manager at Xcel Energy.   Utilities across the country are educating customers about the energy saving options available in their area.  The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) is reminding residents about money-saving opportunities that can reduce energy use and maximize a home’s comfort as the winter approaches.  Black Hills Energy is sharing winter saving tips and weatherization to-do’s, energy efficiency blogs and programs like residential rebates, to reduce energy consumption and help customers save money.

On a larger scale, utilities are encouraging municipalities and businesses to take energy efficient measures.  Dominion Energy has swapped out streetlights for LED bulbs in areas of South Carolina.  “We want to increase awareness about these lighting programs for all our communities,” said Paul Fischer, a Dominion Energy spokesman. He continued, “We look at this as an investment in the community.”  On the north shore of Long Island the New York Power Authority is investing in their community as well.  This week, they announced the completion of energy-efficient LED streetlights installed throughout the city of Glen Cove.  The initiative was part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Smart Street Lighting NY program.  The $780,000 upgrade, financed and implemented by NYPA, includes the replacement of 1,400 streetlights with energy-saving LED fixtures, reducing energy and maintenance costs.  “The replacement of street lighting with efficient LED fixtures is helping Glen Cove and other municipalities across the state reduce energy and maintenance costs, and improve safety, while also protecting the environment,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “Under the Governor’s Smart Street Lighting NY program, NYPA is in the process of replacing tens of thousands of streetlights across the state and fully expects to exceed the Governor’s goal of replacing 500,000 lights by 2025.”  The project will save the city more than $97,000 in annual energy and maintenance costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 250 tons per year. Smart Street Lighting NY is a statewide program that calls for at least 500,000 streetlights to be replaced with LED technology by 2025.  

In the city, building owners are under scrutiny by the Urban Green Council.  Half of New York City’s buildings are considered energy deficient.  From an “A” to a “D,” ratings must be posted on large buildings or the building owners could face fines of $1,200 or more.  One Bryant Park, the first LEED Platinum skyscraper, which set a standard for green construction, earned a “D.”  “Because the system is a one-size-fits-all that measures us against half-empty buildings in suburban office parks in Arizona, New York City skyscrapers don’t score particularly well,” said Jordan Barowitz of The Durst Organization, a leading commercial and real estate company. Ratings aside, upgrades cost money and some are concerned the cost would be passed onto tenants. Advocates disagree, saying making buildings energy efficient actually saves money long term. The city is providing building owners with resources, like low-interest loans, to help.

Energy efficiency efforts may see a new surge in upcoming months.  Is awareness behind the recent increase in LED bulb sales?  Bulbs.com announced record performance during September/October with sales up 25% and expects their success to continue through Q4.  "Our survey data shows that 46% of our new commercial and 68% of our new residential customers were previously buying from local electrical/lighting distributors and DIY stores but turned to the internet during the pandemic to find new sources of supply,” says Bulbs.com CEO, Mike Connors.

Whatever the reason, I am glad Xcel teamed up with participating retailers to provide special discounts on LED lighting for residential customers.  Typically customers can find participating retailers online and then visit those stores in person. Because of COVID, I was pleased our utility provided LED bulbs directly to our door.  What other initiatives are utilities proposing for residential and commercial customers?  How can we keep the ball rolling on energy conservation and efficiency?

 

 

Discussions

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 24, 2020

I love these programs-- customers get the 'warm and fuzzies' that their utility is a partner who is looking out for them, while utilities get the benefit of the true motivation: an incredibly cost-effective strategy to dampen overall customer demand

Eric Van Orden's picture
Eric Van Orden on Dec 2, 2020

While staying at home this summer. I did a virtual energy audit with Xcel Energy's program implementer CLEAResult who then partnered with EFI to distributed DIY lightbulbs and shower heads in the mail. Despite being a trained and experienced efficiency enthusiast (my wife my say "energy miser" or if she is feeling nice "energy geek"), the audit still found some quick savings opportunities, including the big row of pesky globe lights in the bathroom that my kids like to leave on. 

I expect that more programs by mail will continue in 2021 and beyond. And, I expect more distribution and value from DIY efficiency products in the 1-3 year time frame, particularly smart/connected devices not just efficient devices. Smart thermostats opened the door. With expanding deployment of variable renewables and more than 70% of meters across the US being smart AMI (many with Zigbee home are networks), the time in which we use energy is going to be increasingly important and the technology is manage peaks and troughs for a more optimized energy system. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 2, 2020

Thanks for sharing the personal story, Eric-- I love the thought that even those of us thinking about this stuff every day have opportunities we're missing and are excited to have them pointed out and addressed!

Nevelyn Black's picture

Thank Nevelyn for the Post!

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