Rush Hour Rewards
Hot Texas summers are heading our way. The Lone Star State is infamous for being one of the hottest states in the nation. As with every summer, many members have their ACs running full blast all day trying to stay cool.
Rising temperatures can take a toll on electric bills and on the Texas electric grid. During the summer, when the grid is at its highest capacity, United uses demand response procedures to help control the co-op’s load on the grid. As was seen last year, the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) grid experienced record-breaking energy consumption. Everyone across the state can play a part in lowering daily demand during these times. As solutions toward such efforts, United has demand response options for members. One of those is the cooperative’s Rush Hour Rewards (RHR) program.
Electricity cannot be stored on a large scale, so supply-and-demand in real time must stay balanced between consumer demand and energy capacity on the grid. Demand response provides an opportunity for consumers to influence operational efficiency of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their usage during peak periods.
Members’ participation in reducing demand also helps offset United’s wholesale power costs. Each year, United power costs are set at points where the cooperative’s demand for power coincides with Brazos ElectricCooperative’s peak demand (Brazos is the generation and transmission cooperative that supplies energy to United). This Coincidental Peak (CP) is the highest demand during a 15-minute period. United is billed for 12 months based on United’s load during these CP events. Lowering United’s demand during the CP will reduce cost for members.
United has used demand response to lower demand for many years. One of the more recent demand-response programs that continues to bring value to the cooperative and its members is the Rush Hour Rewards (RHR) program.
The RHR program allows United’s members with Nest thermostats who have opted into United’s RHR program to earn incentives by allowing the co-op to make minor temperature adjustments to their thermostats during the projected peak times. Nest will pre-cool the homes prior to the start of the projected peak. Once the peak has started, Nest will adjust the thermostat up to 3 degrees, reducing the run time during the peak times. Peak periods typically occur between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m., and while United uses a variety of resources and tools to project days when peak periods are likely to occur, forecasting peak events is still a difficult process. Since United is limited by the number of RHR events the cooperative can call each summer, United’s energy innovation team works to attain a certain level of confidence with every forecast and prediction before calling a peak event.
If predicting one peak is not challenging enough, United has an additional CP that impacts cost. The second CP is ERCOT’s, which controls the majority of the Texas grid. The characteristics between the two peaks vary by the time frame between when the peaks occur and their costs. ERCOT’s peak typically occurs earlier in the afternoon than the Brazos peak. Calling an event can be even more daunting if the ERCOT and Brazos peaks fall on the same day, since an overlap would lengthen the time of the RHR event. In such circumstances, United’s staff tasks itself with scheduling the event appropriately to capture both peak times.
As mentioned earlier, United offers incentives to make enrollment in the RHR program more appealing for members. Members who buy a Nest thermostat can send in their receipt or invoice within 60 days to receive a $50 rebate from United. Once a member enrolls in RHR, a $15 credit will be applied to the member’s account on their June, July, August and September bills. The June credit will show up on July bill and so on. Each member enrolled prior to June 1 will receive a total of $60 for the season.
In addition to helping members shed load, Nest learning thermostats have helped members lower energy costs by learning their usage preferences and habits, and automatically setting system run times and schedules to meet typical comfort levels. Energy-saving features like these have demonstrated savings of up to 15 percent on summer energy bills, and 10-12 percent on winter bills according to independent researchers. There are two types of Nests available, Nest 3rd Gen and the Nest E, which cost $160 to $250, respectively. Both have an array of add-on WiFi devices that can enhance smart-home connectivity. No matter what Nest thermostat members decide to install, United is ready to answer questions regarding the Nest Thermostat and the Rush Hour Rewards program.