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United Cooperative Services News

Making a Difference Through Energy Management Programs

United offers Beat the Peak, Rush Hour Rewards

I try to turn off the lights when I can.”

Katy Boucher, a stay-at-home mother of three from Glen Rose, said she’s always tried to conserve energy. She became the first to sign up this April to receive alerts through United Cooperative Services’ Beat the Peak Program.

“I wanted to see about saving energy,” she said. “That was the main goal.”

And while she said it’s still too early to tell how participation has impacted her energy bill (only three Beat the Peak days had been called as of press time), Boucher said she intends to continue monitoring her email for the warnings to reduce energy usage as the hot summer days increase during the Texas summer.

“I try to make sure I turn all the lights off we don’t need and try not to run the dryer or washer in the afternoons,” she said, explaining how she reacts to the warnings. “Just turn it all off, I guess.”

Beat the Peak is an early-warning system that tells consumers when energy prices peak, and how United members can help reduce demand during peak periods when the price of energy is at the highest.

When alerts are announced, members are encouraged to raise the thermostat a few degrees in the summer or lower it in the winter. The base thermostat settings United recommends are 78 for summer and 68 for winter, so adjusting during the peak energy time just a few degrees can go a long way to reducing energy costs for the entire membership.

Members also should turn off unnecessary lights and delay using major appliances such as clothes driers, ovens, stovetops and dishwashers until the alert time has passed.

Lower demand at peak time lowers the co-op’s overall cost for power. As a nonprofit entity, United then passes the energy savings on to members. The more people participate, the more energy and energy dollars are conserved.

The program is voluntary and benefits all co-op members. Individual members will see neither a charge increase for non-participation, nor a conservation usage credit for those who choose to partake.

Don Beauchamp, a member in Alvarado, said he already has seen a difference in his June bill.

Beauchamp not only signed up for Beat the Peak warnings, but also enrolled in United’s Rush Hour Rewards program. Those enrolled in Rush Hour Rewards can receive considerable incentives from the co-op in the purchase of a smart/learning Nest thermostat which, during a Rush Hour Reward day, the co-op can then adjust automatically for optimal energy savings for the member.

“I agree on saving energy and doing that kind of stuff,” Beauchamp said, explaining how he got involved in the programs. “I had a roof put on my house. After I had that roof put on my house, they put a barrier on it to help me out. Then I got to talking to a friend of mine about Nest thermostats, and we went and bought one. Then I found out about these other programs from United in Texas Co-op Power magazine. My last electric bill was only $122. I thought that was pretty darn good. I think it’s a pretty good program as far as I’m concerned.”

Blake Beavers, the vice president of power supply at United, said that the cooperative started the voluntary Beat the Peak program with the hope of educating the co-op’s membership on how to reduce energy usage during the most expensive time. This reduces overall energy costs that the co-op pays to its energy provider and, in turn, can pass along those savings to its members.

“We want to get our members engaged in assisting us to reduce energy demand during peak times when price of energy is most expensive,” he said. “Beat the Peak is an opportunity for us to form a communication channel to engage with our members and notify them when these peak days occur. When they do, we’ll give them pointers on how to reduce their own personal usage. We also want to tell them about the resources available to them from United, such as co-op energy audits, or through rebates to help financially with the implementation of energy efficient appliances or products throughout the house.

“I think initial response to the program just goes to show you we have a very engaged membership,” he said. “We have a membership that really cares about conservation and energy efficiency, and they want to do their part in reducing the overall cost of power for the co-op.”

Members can participate by signing up online to receive email or text messages that will announce when a peak is about to occur. Also, they can watch United’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for these alerts.