AUSTIN (KXAN) — As summer gets underway and temperatures skyrocket, energy companies may start running into conservation issues.
We saw that this month.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued an alert asking Texans to conserve energy, as demand came close to exceeding capacity. ERCOT attributed this to a high number of generation outages due to repairs.
But there are other ways local energy providers can help curtail demand during the hot summer months — by remotely adjusting your internet-connected thermostat.
Austin Energy has the voluntary Power Partner Program, which allows it “to manage energy use when demand is at its highest.”
“During a Power Partner event Austin Energy will adjust the temperature setting on your Internet-connected thermostat,” the company’s website reads. Temperature adjustments can be between two and four degrees. The company said it will alert customers before an event takes place on their thermostat app or thermostat display itself.
Additionally, events can only take place in the afternoons on weekdays between June 1 and Sept. 30, excluding holidays, according to Austin Energy’s website. Events will not last more than two hours, and the number of events Austin Energy can initiate during the summer is 25. Before an event, Austin Energy said there is a “pre-cooling” period that will allow your residence to reach a comfortable temperature before thermostats are raised.
Austin Energy claims the program helps lower electricity costs, ensures even energy distribution and helps prevent power outages.
How do I sign up?
First, you need to be a residential customer of Austin Energy. Your thermostat also needs to control your central air conditioning system. Lastly, you need to be okay with Austin Energy making small adjustments to your thermostat on high demand days.
Once you’ve gone through those questions, you’ll assess your current thermostat. If you have an eligible, already-installed, internet-connected thermostat, you can enroll it here. Some eligible thermostats include some models from the brands Nest, Honeywell Home, Vivint and Emerson.
If you don’t have an eligible thermostat, you’ll need to buy one. Once you have the new thermostat installed, you can enroll in the program.
Austin Energy will confirm your enrollment if all steps are followed correctly. You should get an email about your status. Customers are limited to five thermostats.
If you join and/or buy a new thermostat, you can get a rebate of up to $110, Austin Energy said.
How do I opt out?
On its website, Austin Energy said you can opt out of Power Partner Program events once you’ve signed up. You can opt out through your thermostat, mobile device or web app.
However, the company does not say online how to opt out of the Power Partner Program altogether. Any additional questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Smart Savers Texas program run by a Brooklyn-based company called EnergyHub during the summer of 2020 was similar to Austin Energy’s Power Partner Program and included electric providers that operate under ERCOT.
Smart Savers Texas said those participating must agree “to allow Sponsor, EnergyHub, and Utility to control his or her thermostat to reduce demand during the Program Period by increasing the current setpoint or scheduled target temperature setpoint by up to 4˚F to temporarily reduce normal operating patterns in order to reduce electrical demand.”
This specific program was set to last between May 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020, according to the terms and conditions, but EnergyHub said you could be automatically re-enrolled for other program periods at their discretion.
Just like Austin Energy, an incentive was offered to those who enrolled: a chance to win up to $5,000 for your electric bills through a drawing.
For 2021, the EnergyHub program period operates from June 1 through Sept. 30. The incentive to join is about the same: a chance to win money for one year’s worth of electric bills or up to $5,000 through a drawing. The more thermostat adjustment events you participate in during the period, the more times you’ll be entered into the drawing, up to a maximum of eight entries.
The voluntary program includes several Texas electric providers, like CenterPoint Energy and CPS Energy, and you must have an eligible thermostat to participate.
For this year’s program period, temperature adjustments will happen on non-holiday weekdays anytime between 1 and 7 p.m. These events could run between one to four hours, “except under rare emergency conditions.”
EnergyHub estimates there could be two to eight adjustments during the program period.
How do I withdraw?
EnergyHub said you can email email@example.com to withdraw from the program or if you have any questions.