Saving Money with ‘Beat the Peak’

Co-op members volunteer to reduce energy usage when demand is high

Delaware Electric Co-op’s in-home blinking device cautions members to reduce their energy use to improve their power rates. (Photo By: DEC)
Delaware Electric Co-op’s in-home blinking device cautions members to reduce their energy use to improve their power rates. (Photo By: DEC)

Faced with a summer heat wave, electric cooperatives around the country are encouraging members to “Beat the Peak” and save money by decreasing their power usage when demand and prices are at their highest.

Delaware Electric Cooperative, a “Beat the Peak” pioneer in 2008, issued alerts to its 54,000 members in the voluntary program as temperatures climbed into the mid- to upper 90s with humidity close behind from July 18 to 21.

“It was the hottest week of the year so far,” said Jeremy Tucker, manager of marketing and communications at the co-op in Greenwood.

Participating co-ops alert members when forecasts for extreme temperatures portend sustained peak prices in competitive wholesale electricity markets.

Vermont Electric Co-op in Johnson, Duck River EMC in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and distribution co-ops served by Old Dominion Electric Co-op were among many issuing “Beat the Peak” alerts.

Implementation varies. DEC offers a blinking in-home alert device; others ping members’ cell phones, run ads in newspapers, on radio and TV, and use social media, including Facebook. A “Beat the Peak” period can last two to four hours.

While it’s difficult to measure how many members respond by adjusting their thermostats, cutting off lights and shunning major appliances, DEC said an energy usage made “a huge drop” during its latest call.

“It probably saved a couple hundred thousand dollars,” said Tucker.

To date, DEC members have saved $24 million from “Beat the Peak” and are on track to save $2.3 million this year, he said. That includes a 5 percent drop in members’ monthly electricity bills beginning in March.

“There is room for more savings,” said Tucker.

The co-op issues “Beat the Peak” alerts at least once a month throughout the year.

“It’s important to keep ‘Beat the Peak”’ in the minds of members. They know why they do it—to save energy and money,” said Tucker.

Nearly 13,000 members participate at Duck River EMC, where the co-op said it might have to pay an extra $10 per kilowatt-hour for electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority during peak times. Co-op engineers study four years of load and temperature history plus 48-hour forecasts before issuing a “Beat the Peak” alert.

“We all save by working together,” said Carol Garrette, DREMC manager of member services.

A year into the program, DREMC surveyed members in 2015 and found a variety of reasons they want to “Beat the Peak.” “I appreciate this program as it keeps my bill low,” said one.

Co-ops believe the number of members signing up or joining the effort by word of mouth is growing as the benefits become more apparent. Although Vermont Electric has signed up 600 members, the co-op sees members sharing social media posts about the alert.

“They are letting their friends know,” said Andrea Cohen, VEC manager of government affairs and member relations. “The ‘Beat the Peak’ alert is getting to people who would not have gotten it otherwise. The reach is greater than it was before.”

NRECA has looked at “Beat the Peak”and its benefits for efficiency.

Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.