Guess Which State Cuts Peak Fossil Fuel Use 33%!

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In order to delay adding any new fossil-fuel generation until at least 2020, an Oklahoma utility is trying a pilot program; pricing electricity based on Time of Use (TOU). Oklahoma is very dependent on fossil fuels, (as you might deduce from its Senator, Jim “global warming is a hoax” Inhofe). The results are staggering.

It turns out, Oklahomans are proving to be even more responsive to incentives to save energy than Californians. Average peak energy use plummeted up to 33 percent.

It takes a sharp prod to make it happen, and that is exactly what Oklahoma Gas & Electric delivered, in a two year pilot program involving 2,500 Oklahoma homes, with very sharply higher rates during peak times – intended to curb peak demand.

According to Greentechmedia, the 2,500 homes were first set up with a web portal that displayed the cost of any energy-related action in real time, to help them decide when to use appliances. Then customers were put on TOU pricing that encouraged shifting energy use to non peak times.

Nothing very extreme was required, no delayed action timers and so on, just turning the washing machine on late at night or before dawn, loading the dishwasher after dinner, but not turning it on till the last person goes to bed: that sort of thing.

The households were divided into two groups. The pricing in the pilot varied, and proved that a sharp differential is needed.The most extreme peak pricing went up to 23 cents a kwh at partial peak, and to 46 cents a kwh at the most critical peak times. Or just 4 cents off-peak.

As you can imagine, it is not that hard to run appliances at another time when you have a choice between 4 cents and 46 cents a kwh!

The pricing was a reflection of the actual cost of electricity at each time. The other group in the pilot could save only 19 cents a kwh by moving to off peak pricing (pay 4 cents off-peak, or 23 cents at peak). They did pretty well too, reducing energy use, but the first group pointed the level of TOU differential needed.

A 33 percent drop in peak energy use could easily get Oklahoma to the equivalent of the Kyoto-Accord levels of greenhouse gas reductions that European nations and America’s blue states are able to reach (though mostly by adding some renewable energy as well as conservation).

But even red states like Senator Inhofe’s Oklahoma can help us get there too, pretty easily, it turns out, just with time-switching. He should just chill out. But don’t turn on the dishwasher till bedtime…

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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