Xcel offering credit for lowering energy demand

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Xcel Energy is offering credit to Clovis customers in exchange for using a new tool to help lower peak demands on electric power.

Customers in Roswell, Carlsbad and Artesia are also being asked to sign up for the company’s Saver’s Switch program.

The voluntary program allows Xcel Energy to control a customer’s air conditioner compressor and/or electric water heater for short periods of time on hot days when power supplies are tight. Customers will receive up to $55 off their summer electricity bills for participating in the program.

Upon sign-up for Saver’s Switch, an Xcel Energy contractor will install the switch free of charge.

“I watched them do it,” Xcel Energy spokesperson Wes Reeves said of the installation. “It took about 20 minutes, tops. We used an outside contractor. It’s a very simple process.”

Digital signals are transmitted through Xcel’s radio towers to individual switches, which then interrupt compressor and water heater controls. Fans in the ventilation system are not turned off, and will continue to circulate cool air through the home or business.

During an interruption, operators would typically cycle air conditioner compressors in 15- to 20-minute intervals. Water heaters are shut off for the duration of the control. Interruptions normally won’t take place on holidays or weekends.

Residential customers can choose to install Saver’s Switch on either the air conditioner compressor alone, or both the compressor and an electric water heater. The credit for the compressor option is $40, and if a customer adds a water heater to the program, the credit rises to $55.

The program is available only to customers with refrigerated, central air conditioning units. Refrigerated or evaporative window units do not qualify.

Riley Hill, president and CEO of Southwestern Public Service Company, an Xcel Energy company, said it’s worth offering the benefit to help push down power demand.

“Power plants are expensive to build and maintain, especially when you consider that many of our power sources aren’t needed during the cooler seasons when customer usage is down,” Hill said. “Anything we can do to reduce consumption at the peak time helps us meet future demand without building more power plants. This saves everyone money and reduces our impact on the environment.”

The program has been tested in areas of Minnesota, Colorado and Texas served by Xcel Energy. Reeves said Xcel has about 300,000 Texas customers and has had about 2,000 of them sign up for the program over the last two years.

An independent test of 40 homes in Minnesota showed an average increase of only one to two degrees Fahrenheit during activation.

To enroll customers can call Xcel Energy at (800) 895-4999 (individual), (800) 481-4700 (businesses) or visit www.xcelenergy.com.