How Southern California Homeowners Can Prevent Blackouts


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By Max Havins
April 20, 2012

Earlier this week, we broke news of a potential power crunch and rolling blackouts in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange counties. Fortunately, there are opportunities for homeowners to help keep the lights on this summer, including home energy efficiency measures and utility rebate programs.

Utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) plan to work closely with customers this summer to maximize conservation. They are offering programs and rebates for large energy users, like the military and commercial building owners, as well as residential customers who take steps to conserve energy.

SDG&E recently launched a new rewards program for home energy efficiency called Reduce Your Use. On days when stress on the power grid is expected to be high, customers will get an alert telling them they can earn credits that day if they can find ways to reduce their energy use.

There are a number of options for saving on these “Reduce Your Use” days.  Customers get a rebate of about $1 for every kWh saved, meaning simple measure like raising the temperature on the thermostat could earn an easy $5 to $10 on high-demand days. SDG&E customers can find additional details on the program and sign up online. (Customers in San Diego and elsewhere can even track their energy use daily with thanks to the Green Button initiative.)

SDG&E reps tell Sierra Club Green Home that they are also encouraging customers to sign up for the Summer Saver Program. This is a more formal, contractual agreement that allows the utility to cut back customer demand for electricity during those emergency periods of high stress on the grid. In exchange for a rebate on their energy bill, customers in the program agree to let SDG&E shut off the compressor on their air conditioners. The fan remains on, but the air conditioner does not use as much electricity with the compressor off.

For Los Angeles and Orange counties, SCE has a similar program called the Summer Discount Plan. Like the SDG&E program, customers can sign up for different options. One option would only allow the utility to shut off the air conditioner’s compressor for 15 minutes each half hour for a maximum of six hours. Another option, which comes with a larger rebate, would allow the utility to turn it off completely for a maximum of six hours.

Rebates are settled later in the year, directly on the customers’ power bill, and can range from $25 to as much as $200 or more, depending on a few factors. The size of the rebate varies depending on the size of the air conditioner and how many times the unit’s compressor needs to be shut off over the summer.

These programs may not make sense for everyone, but those who are at work during the day can save some extra money without breaking a sweat. If you sign up, be sure to read the terms and conditions as these rebates may affect other rebates you get from the utility.

There are also many additional energy rebates available to SDG&E and SCE customers, as well as state programs like Energy Upgrade California to help homeowners save as much as $4,000 on home energy projects.

Beyond energy conservation, there are also abundant opportunities with solar energy systems. What better way to keep the lights on during a heat wave than tapping the sun for power?

Solar companies now offer pricing options where customers pay only for the power provided and not for the equipment installed. Even if a home is not a good candidate for solar panels, there are new models to bring shared solar resources to the community. Check back for a more detailed review of community solar programs in Southern California.

For anyone in Southern California considering an energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrade, now is as good a time as any. It might prevent a blackout.

 

For related articles, see:
Southern California Prepares for Electricity Blackouts
A Sustainable Home in Ten Steps

 

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

One Response

  1. Lauren July 14, 2012

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