Crowd-sourcing energy efficiency

Eversource offers customers incentive payments to tap into home, business devices

EVERSOURCE ENERGY on Wednesday began offering businesses and homeowners incentive payments ranging from $20 to $1,000 a year if they allow the company to tap into devices that would allow the utility to remotely retrieve electricity stored by customers or lower their energy usage at peak demand periods.

Developed as part of the state’s $2.8 billion, three-year energy efficiency program, Eversource said the incentive payment program would target customers with electric vehicle chargers, battery storage devices, or wireless thermostats.

Customers with vehicle chargers or battery storage systems would allow Eversource to remotely link to the devices “a few hours a month,” drawing electricity that would be shifted on to the regional power grid at peak demand periods. For homeowners with wireless thermostats, Everource would remotely turn down the temperature on very hot days and help reduce demand on the power grid.

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By aggregating the devices of several thousand customers, Eversource estimated it could reduce the need for new power plants and transmission facilities. The company described the energy impact of the program as the equivalent of taking 20,000 homes off the power grid at peak demand times.

Charlotte Ancel, the utility’s director of clean energy development, said someone with a Tesla Power Wall could probably earn incentive payments of as much as $1,000 a year by signing up for the program. She said someone giving Eversource some measure of control over their thermostat could earn $10 to $20 a month.

The devices being targeted by Eversource tend to be in more affluent communities, raising the question of whether a program funded with ratepayer money is primarily benefitting wealthier homeowners. Ancel said the broader benefits of the program – lowering the cost of meeting peak demand on the power grid – will benefit all ratepayers. She said Eversource also intends to roll out offers specifically targeting economic justice communities.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Massachusetts utilities in the past have explored reducing grid demand by using electricity meters that charge customers based on when they use power – high prices at peak demand periods and low prices when demand is low. Ancel said the new incentive payment system accomplishes the same goal without the customer having to monitor his or her time-of-day usage.

Ancel said Eversource will eventually have a page on its website providing details on the program, but currently interested customers are encouraged to send an email to connectedsolutions@eversource.com.