by Pam Zubeck
Showing energy users how much their neighbors consume has been proven effective in getting people to conserve, USA Today reported recently. It says 25 utility companies tell customers how their usage compares to those around them, which leads to a 2 percent to 3 percent savings.
Colorado Springs Utilities considered the idea several years ago, but decided not to do it, concluding that its other programs are more sustainable. "Programs like the one described in the article rely more on customers changing their behavior and less on efficiency upgrades," Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman writes in an e-mail.
Utilities' rebates for installing energy-efficient fixtures and appliances provide a quantifiable, long-term savings, he says. In 2009, demand management rebate programs reduced electric use by an estimated 20 million kilowatt hours (enough power for 2,800 homes for a year) and 305,800 MCF (enough natural gas to supply 4,200 homes for a year), Grossman notes. These are annual savings, meaning that customers will reduce their usage each year for the life of the fixture/appliance.
Other strategies include conservation advice, tips, classes, demonstrations and online energy audits to help customers reduce their usage. Customers realize savings from these tools, but the savings are more difficult to quantify.
In addition, the city-owned utility added graphs to customer bills that show average daily usage for electricity, natural gas and water going back 13 months, so customers can track it all.
One chief goal in reducing load is to put off building another coal-fired plant, which is sure to get more analysis this year as Utilities once again sets long-term goals for energy management.