THERMOSTAT CONTROL PROGRAMS
EVOLVE TO AID MEMBERS, SAVE ENERGY
As the weather in Texas prepares to transition from winter to summer, with possibly very little reprieve on energy usage in between them, United’s Energy Solutions Team is gearing up for the summer heat. United is constantly looking for innovative solutions that expand additional energy savings opportunities for members.
Five years ago, United entered a partnership with Nest, a thermostat manufacturer, to assist members in saving energy during peak demand periods. United’s Nest Rush Hour Rewards Program (RHR) was a byproduct of the joint effort. Since then, RHR has proven to be beneficial for all United stakeholders. Due to this success, the cooperative is pleased to announce its RHR program will soon be expanded with a Bring Your Own Thermostat Program that will, for now, include two additional thermostat vendors—Ecobee and Honeywell/Resideo.
“We’re excited to expand the program in time for the 2021 summer peak season,” said Blake Beavers, vice president of power supply. “A large percentage of homes are equipped with a Nest, Ecobee, or Honeywell thermostat, and it will open up the opportunity for more of our members to participate and reap the benefits offered through the new Bring Your Own Thermostat Program.”
Demand Response in Texas
During the summer when the grid is experiencing its highest load, United uses demand response procedures to help control the co-op’s load on the grid. Both in 2018 and 2019, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid experienced record-breaking energy consumption during the summer months. Last year, however, perhaps due to COVID-19 along with demand response programs in place across Texas, the load fell slightly lower than the previous two years.
The main thing for members to note is that 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. By shifting demand to an off-peak period, either before or after the peak times occur, members help take strain off the grid, as well as help United save on wholesale power costs from its wholesale power supplier, Brazos Electric Cooperative (Brazos), during peak conditions.
Each year a portion of United’s power costs are calculated based on the co-op’s energy demand during both the Brazos and ERCOT peaks in June, July, August and September. In essence, if United can predict and shed load during peak ERCOT usage periods and the highest usage period for Brazos for each summer month, then such energy usage management can lead to significant savings for the following year (12 months).
It can be challenging to predict both peaks, so United watches both grids carefully during these four months. ERCOT’s peak typically occurs earlier in the afternoon than the Brazos peak. The two peaks can coincide on the same day, or they can happen on separate days. Scheduling a demand response 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 demand response event. In such circumstances, United tasks itself with scheduling the event appropriately to capture both peak times.
United residential members with a qualifying Nest, Ecobee or Honeywell thermostat will be able to opt into United’s RHR and Bring Your Own Thermostat Program through United’s website. Members with a Nest thermostat can currently enroll in the program, and the enrollment for Ecobee and Honeywell will be available sometime in March. There will be an enrollment link for each thermostat manufacturer. For more details on qualifying thermostats and models or enrollment, please visit our Thermostat Program page. Member should also note some models will not be compatible and, thus, ineligible for enrollment in the program.
What to Expect
During a demand response event, a participating member’s thermostat will automatically tune temperatures before and during the event to reduce energy usage and lower grid costs. The thermostat will pre-cool the home ahead of time and then tweak the temperature up a few degrees when the event starts, reducing the runtime during the peak times. If needed, members can adjust the temperature during an event— they retain complete control of their thermostat. Listed below are the program rules:
• There will be no more than 20 three-hour events each summer.
• Events can occur anytime between 3-6:30 p.m. on weekdays or weekends.
• There will only be one event called per day, and there will never be more than four events per week.
• The program period spans four months of summer starting May 21 and ending Sept. 30.
As mentioned earlier, United offers incentives to members who enroll their thermostats in the RHR and Bring Your Own Thermostat Program. This year United is offering a $50 rebate for new purchases of Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell Smart Wifi-Enabled Thermostats. A rebate application must be filled out and sent to United, along with a proof of purchase. To qualify, the member must send in the rebate application within 60 days of purchasing the thermostat. In addition, after enrolling the thermostat in United’s RHR and Bring Your Own Thermostat Program, the member will receive a $15 bill credit for each of the four months they are enrolled (June, July, August and September). If the member has multiple thermostats enrolled, they will receive $15 for each thermostat enrolled. The bill credit will be applied the following month. For example, if they are enrolled for June, the member will receive the bill credit in July.
United welcomes the opportunity to help members find ways to waste less energy. For additional information on United’s Rush Hour Rewards and Bring Your Own Thermostat Program, or any of our other energy saving programs, please contact a United office today.