Austin Energy increases program incentives deal, aims to conserve energy

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One Austin Energy program aims to save customers money while helping the city save energy.

It’s a program called Power Partner. At present, Austin Energy is offering nearly $150 in rebates and incentives for customers who decide to invest in a smart thermostat and give the city access.

A $25 rebate for the purchase of the smart thermostat and a $130 incentive for joining the program.

“Across all of the state of Texas these conservation programs helped and once they got that alert we were able to drive that usage down and so it didn’t go and escalate to the next level of that alert,” Denise Kuehn, the energy company’s director of energy efficiency services said.

Mary Pustejovsky is one of over 33,000 customers who has made the change to a smart thermostat.

“I found the Ecobee for $150 so I thought it’s basically free and Austin Energy is going to pay me to buy this thing and save money on my electric bill? Great!” she exclaimed.

Austin Energy officials said this change could have a big impact on the state’s power grid by being able to drive down the usage during peak times.

“This is one of several options that ERCOT has designed, different programs so that overall the stability of the grid in the state of Texas can be maintained,” Kuehn said.

RELATED: ERCOT requests customers to conserve electricity use on Friday

Just this past summer, ERCOT urged customers to conserve electricity — twice — during high-demand days. Through the program, Austin Energy officials were able to lower those partner thermostats remotely even if the customer didn’t hear that warning.

“Usually on average there are 18 events a year and on those events, we’ll call those events anywhere from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at that time say you have a party and you want to opt-out, you can go ahead and just opt out of that event,” Kuehn said. “If you participate in the event then the system takes over and automatically does it and most of us are working during that period of time or on our drive home so we don’t even realize that we have just helped the community and Austin Energy reduce the overall load because by the time we get back home our thermostats are resuming the cooling.”

Pustejovsky said she was quoted to receive around a 10% – 15% discount on her bill.

“I haven’t gotten it yet,” she said laughing. “But if you can save even $10 a month, you look at that over a year that’s $120 so it basically pays for this and in addition to having those incentives it pays for itself.”

That’s why Pustejovsky said it was a “no-brainer” for her to sign up, “It’s free money and basically a free thermostat and it will save you money in the long term, so why not do it?”

Since the program started in late 2013, Austin Energy has spent $2.8 million in rebates and incentives alone.

To learn more about the program, click HERE.

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