Commission says Avista pilot program should benefit all customers
State regulators have approved a pilot program by Avista Utilities that should reduce the need for the utility to buy power from the expensive wholesale market during peak demand times when energy is most expensive.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission today approved the two-year pilot that would enlist volunteer customers to agree to have programmable controllable thermostats attached to a number of their appliances, with air conditioning units given priority. The program is limited to the Sandpoint and Moscow areas, but could be expanded if needed to gain more participants.
At least four times during the year when electrical demand is at peak, Avista will declare a peak event during which the thermostats would be used to control the use of appliances in the homes of volunteer customers. Each of the peak events is expected to last for four hours, but can be extended to six hours depending on power price and conditions.
Avista estimates the pilot will cost $123,000, but believes it will save at least $150,000 in power costs during the peak-periods when the program is in place.
Incentives for customers to participate include upgraded equipment and their associated features they will receive from the utility. Customers opting in for a programmable thermostat will receive a thorough inspection of their heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Customers with demand response switches will also receive an audit of all equipment controlled by the switch plus a $10 a month credit during July, August, December, January and February.
Avista will evaluate the effectiveness of the program by examining energy savings, effectiveness of the technology, customer acceptance, and interaction of peak demand on the company’s overall distribution system. The company will also present a final report to the commission. Commission staff acknowledged the proposed pilot is limited in scope, yet designed to obtain considerable information for a relatively modest investment.
The commission commended Avista for its continued efforts to develop cost-effective Demand Side Management (DSM) programs. Such programs are designed to curb electrical demand on the company’s overall system, reducing the need for Avista to buy additional power during peak demand periods when it is most expensive. Such programs can even delay the need to build new power plants. “The proposed pilot programs, we find, should benefit all customers, both participants and non-participants,” the commission said, resulting in lower customer bills, deferring the need for new supply sources and reducing the company’s high-cost peak power needs.
Documents related to this case can be found on the Commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the “Electric” icon, then “Open Electric Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. AVU-E-07-04.