PSEG Long Island plans to throw everything it has in its energy-saving arsenal at more than 8,000 North Bellmore customers in a program aimed at cutting peak-power consumption to avoid spending heavily on traditional fixes to meet rising demand.
The utility by summer plans to roll out a program called Super Saver to offer nearly all the 8,321 residential and 442 business customers new smart electric meters, special time-of-use rates, discounted intelligent thermostats, home energy audits and educational software and programs to cut energy use.
The first of its kind on Long Island, the program was proposed by the utility in response to the state’s call to find green-energy alternatives to traditional, costly grid upgrades. If successful over a two-year review period, it could see wider adoption across LIPA’s 1.1 million customers, officials said.
The plan is “to essentially throw everything that we can at these homeowners to help them reduce the peak usage,” said Mike Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewables at PSEG.
The utility picked a geographic area of North Bellmore — from Uniondale Avenue to Wantagh Avenue centered by the Southern State Parkway — because the electrical grid there is reaching its capacity to serve customers and would need a costly traditional upgrade in about four years.
“What we’re saying is we’d like customers to take us up on offers that save them money, and in turn they save us money, and we’re sharing that benefit with them,” LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone said.
But at least one North Bellmore ratepayer was skeptical. Steve Biegler of Bellmore Road suggested the real aim was to “eliminate jobs” with smart meters. “It’s always about increasing their revenues,” he said.
Instead, Biegler suggested the utility further encourage solar-energy on home rooftops, as he has on his. A once-popular LIPA solar-rebate program ended last year for residential customers.
Central to Super Saver program will be the installation of new smart meters, which communicate wirelessly with the electric grid and give the utility up-to-the-minute readings on customer usage. Voltz said PSEG will allow ratepayers to see usage trends at up to 15-minute intervals and help cut costs by offering discounts for running appliances and electronics off peak. Usage trends will be viewable on an internet portal.
The smart meters link to a wireless islandwide network completed by PSEG last year to communicate with it in a way that eliminates the need for meter readers. Around 20,000 customers have them, including all of Fire Island. PSEG plans to install more than 50,000 more each year.
Homeowners in the test area will be “strongly encouraged” to undergo home energy audits that will examine home appliances usage and patterns to help them cut usage. Energy-saving LED lights will be offered in place of older bulbs.
Customers will be offered deeper discounts on thermostats that allow the utility to remotely control central air conditioning systems, raising the temperature slightly during peak times to reduce stress and usage on the system.
Where the utility normally offers an $85 discount for the thermostats, PSEG will nearly double the discount to around $150, Voltz said. The thermostats can cost up to $250 each. Customers will also get $25 a year for participating in the program.
Later in the year, PSEG plans to roll out a home-energy management program with an outside vendor to communicate with customers information learned from their smart meter.