Oklahoma Utilities Becoming Greener

March 4, 2013

The electrical and natural gas utilities are doing their best to go even greener, financially and environmentally by offering more energy efficiency programs for the year.

The bad winter weather may be coming to an end and the thoughts of those temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit are a few months away, however, utilities in the state of Oklahoma are offering customers with ways to save money on their utility bills. The various programs include incentives to remodel homes using more energy efficient products, rebates on appliances, and even education on ways to lower the demand on energy.

AEP-PSO just lowered its energy efficiency offerings from 17 to six programs. AEP-PSO is the 2nd largest electricity provider in Oklahoma that has hopes to save 191 gigawatt hours in generation savings spread out over the next 3 years.

Eric Raines, manager of consumer programs for American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma stated, “We consolidated down to six programs, but we’re increasing the incentives offered in those programs.”

The rebates offered include paybacks for purchasing compact fluorescent lamps, $50 for energy-rated windows and up to $2,000 for helping low-income homeowners pay for efficiency improvements. AEP-PSO’s programs available include High Performance Businesses, Home Weatherization and Education, High Performance Homes, Energy Savings Products, and Business Demand Response.

AEP-PSO provided 18,000 education kits to teachers that handed them out to their classrooms last year. The kits included light-emitting diode night lights, thermometers, and smart strips, which are similar to power surge protectors, however, they control energy drain by inactive appliances.

“We’re changing the content of the kits,” Raines stated. “We’re getting away from water saving and moving solely toward electrical awareness.”

Oklahoma Natural Gas is giving out a wide array of rebates including $30 for a furnace checkup and $300 for buying a natural gas clothes dryer. They are also providing another $100 to consumers who purchase a gas clothes dryers this Sunday during an event at the Home Depot store at 9808 E. 71st St.

These two incentives are Oklahoma Natural Gas’s most popular rebate programs, even though they do offer one more that is expensive for them which is up to $850 for conversion from electric to natural gas water heaters.

“We’ve had incredible response in a couple of areas,” ONG representative Cherokee Ballard stated. “We think the programs really benefit our customers.”

Oklahoma Natural Gas has offered its efficiency incentive programs since September 2011. The utility’s cost is offset by a 95-cent charge on monthly bills.

Smart meter technology is a way to control usage away from the peak hours for customer is a feature that of the demand side response. Not quite 3 years ago, AEP-PSO installed about 15,000 smart meters in Owasso, while Oklahoma Gas & Electric, completed a city-wide project in Norman and later in parts of Edmond that was close to the same type of project.

OG&E provides a variety of efficiency programs by way of its SmartHours pricing program and Positive Energy home certifications. SmartHours provides customers with a price of 5 cents per kilowatt hour if they use electricity during the off peak hours. The cost during peak time usage is 44 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Customers can also receive a programmable SmartTemp thermostat to help automate their savings,” OG&E representative Karen Kurtz stated. “The thermostat reads price signals from the smart meter, and customers can program the thermostat to respond to the signals, based on their needs for comfort or maximum savings.”

Home builders can receive an incentive of $759 via the Positive Energy Home certification program. These types of homes would include efficient water-heating, highly efficient HVAC heating and cooling systems, ceiling and slab insulation, tighter construction, and higher levels of floor.

During 2012, AEP-PSO paid out $21.9 million worth of incentives explained, company representative Stan Whiteford said. The monthly rider, or bill addition to pay for those expenses, totals about $2.21 for customers using an average 1,101 kilowatt hours per month.

When energy usage is reduced the amount of revenues the utility companies receive reduces, however, Whiteford explained that the company benefits from lesser demand on its generation facilities. AEP-PSO can eliminate about 240 megawatts in generation demand from the efficiency offerings.

“To give that 240 megawatts some perspective, the Riverside (Jenks) station’s generating capacity is about 1,000 megawatts,” Whiteford said. “That’s about a quarter of that power plant.”

In 2007, OG&E CEO Pete Delaney stated he wanted the utility to avoid building any new fossil-fuel generation until 2020. OG&E so far is sticking to that timeline, Kurtz said.   

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