Have you been wondering when you signed up for BGE’s Smart Energy Saver’s Program? More than 800,000 BGE customers participated in the June 21 collective effort to cut electricity via BGE’s PeakRewards and Smart Energy Saver programs. The goal of both initiatives is to reduce our area’s peak electric grid load and help avoid “brown outs,” where power is cut to many. The energy reducing programs, which are funded through EmPOWER Maryland, are also a clever way to motivate us to finally take steps to reduce monthly energy.
What’s EmPOWER Maryland? Who’s paying for the rebates?
EmPOWER Maryland is a key effort introduced by then-Governor O’Malley to reduce Maryland’s electricity usage by 15 percent by 2015. The initiative was signed into law in 2008 and the cash for EmPOWER Maryland rebates and efforts comes from you. Each month a small surcharge, about $2, has been tacked onto your electric bill (found on the back of your bill). Maryland’s utility companies were tasked with executing demand reduction and energy efficiency programs. BGE PeakRewards℠, BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up, and BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® are the most recognizable.
What’s the Difference between PeakRewards and Energy Saver Days?
By now, most BGE customers’ electric meters have been switched out to ‘smart’ meters. Smart meters send real-time energy usage data back to BGE. No more meter maids driving by every home each month and recording usage.
Before smart meters, BGE offered PeakRewards. Customers voluntarily agree to have their AC, and even hot water units, “cycled down” by 50, 75 or 100 percent between 1 p.m. to 7 p.m on certain hot days. Today, 322,000 households, including mine, participate in PeakRewards and receive a $50, $75 or $100 credit each summer, regardless if your unit was actually cycled down. All BGE customers can sign-up for PeakRewards. It’s not for everyone, but ideal if you work outside the home.
The newer Energy Savings Day incentive program is automatically offered to ALL of BGE’s 1+ million smart meter customers. On June 21, the last Energy Savings day prior to yesterday’s, 84 percent of eligible homes either turned up the thermostat, ran appliances at night, or turned off lights. Those households earned a credit based on how many kiloWatt hours were reduced compared to their average.
For uber-energy savers, these two programs can be bundled together. Customers get the greater credit for that month.
My experience: Cutting Energy Has Been Cool
Please take this the right way – if you haven’t ditched the old fridge, insulated, switched out bulbs, taken an energy audit, or participated in EmPOWER Maryland programs, you’re a little behind the eight ball. $291 million in EmPOWER Maryland rebates and incentives have been doled out since the program’s inception in 2008.
Here’s a quick hit of what we’ve done:
- LIGHTS: In 2008, I switched every lightbulb to a CFL. Now I switch out to LED. Bulb prices are already include the rebate at the store. Our electricity dropped 15 percent immediately. I also added Lutron switches in the basement to automatically turn off the lights; no more screaming at my family to turn off the damn lights.
- PEAKREWARDS: A switch was hooked on my AC condenser. If my unit cycled for 40 minutes each hour to keep our home cool, during a PeakReward day, my unit cycled for just 20 minutes each hour. I receive a $50 credit each summer. There have only been a few cycle days since I signed up three years ago.
- INSULATION: Since we insulated the attic, walls and replaced the AC ducts (they were old and had huge holes), all rebatable fixes, we just don’t notice the AC cycling down until about 6:00 p.m. I chose 50 percent cycle down, and I’m happy to earn some cash to make sure our area doesn’t black out.
- ELECTRONICS: All our electronics are on power switches.
- AC AND HEATER: We bit the bullet and switched from an oil boiler to a super-efficient natural gas heater. 1,500-2,000 gallons of oil a year was breaking the bank. I buy offset “green” electricity and natural gas through Groundswell and WGES. Both units are also maintained each year to make sure they run efficiently.
- COMFORT: I can not emphasize enough how this is the best benefit. Our brick home built in 1951 was cold. You could feel the temp drop as you walked upstairs, it was that cold. Certain bedrooms were freezing, and too warm in the summer. The kitchen was so cold, I cranked up the heat on cold winter mornings before everyone came down for breakfast. Those cold and hot spots are all gone as we took advantage of the Home Energy Audit program.
Someday I will sit down with all the bills and rebates and analyze our exact return on investment. But, with our energy bill down a few thousand dollars each year (I estimate about $4,000), I don’t I care anymore. The incentives worked and got us to invest cash to make cash.
More importantly, we have cut the energy and emissions that our household wasted each month. That is what will help climate change; getting a more comfortable home for less money, energy and global warming gases.
Check out a few Baltimore “before and after energy audit” case studies. Pretty amazing results.