With the cost of peak period generation and transmission capacity continuing to drive increases in overall power supply costs and members' growing concern about rising retail rates, Flathead Electric understands it has a challenge...and an opportunity; an opportunity to empower its members-helping them to lower their energy bills while also helping their Co-op determine the most cost-effective and member friendly way to reduce the amount of peak power needed to serve them. FEC's Peak Time project is born.
In November of 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that Flathead Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FEC) had been selected to receive stimulus funding to upgrade the electric distribution system in the Libby and Marion areas. The funding will allow the Co-op to participate with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and 11 other utilities in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.
Peak Time will be focused on a voluntary demand response project. The program is designed to have no negative rate impact and should allow FEC to get matching federal grant dollars for needed long-term capital investments in that area. Flathead Electric is enthused about launching this project and anticipates that equipment such as in-home displays and water heater demand response units could be available for interested members as early as April of 2011, with smart appliances and home area network equipment available in late summer. The Co-op will be looking for 300 volunteers in Libby and 150 in the Marion area. Participants may be eligible for free in-home equipment, rebates and incentives to help the Co-op determine the most cost-effective way to reduce peak time demand power supply costs.
This is especially crucial as the BPA, Flathead Electric's major power supplier, significantly increases the peak time demand charge post-2011. FEC will continue to receive the bulk of its power at the lower cost (Tier 1) rates it has enjoyed for years from the BPA hydro-system. However, starting in late 2011, the amount of Tier 1 power will be capped by BPA and any power purchased above the fixed amount will come at a much higher cost.
"Our hope is that if people can actually see and understand their power consumption in close to "real-time", they will find it advantageous to make adjustments to how and when they use electricity", according to Regulatory Analyst Russ Schneider, who shaped the project. "This is different from conventional energy conservation because while participants may not actually use less energy in total, they may choose to use it at times of lower cost to the Co-op. That has the potential to ultimately reduce power supply expenditures for members and the Co-op as a whole."
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013