NV Energy introduces new program to cut electricity use

It may be the middle of summer, but you don’t have to stand by and watch your power bill skyrocket.

NV Energy has rolled out a new program, mPowered, to help ratepayers cut electricity use. The program is an upgrade of sorts to NV Energy’s Cool Share program, through which the utility remotely turns up indoor temperatures to briefly stop air-conditioning units and cut power use during hot summer peaks.

Michael Brown, NV Energy’s manager of demand response and distributed energy resources, said mPowered takes conservation to a new level. The data-analysis program is proprietary, but in general terms, it uses an Internet-enabled thermostat that communicates back and forth with a cloud-based service. It lets program volunteers turn their system on or off and track savings via smartphone, tablet or computer.

Plus, mPowered features thermostats that send data once a minute on indoor and outdoor temps, whether your system’s air compressor and fan are running, and how often you or a family member adjusts the thermostat.

The figures create what Brown called a custom “thermal model” that helps your system constantly adjust its operation based on how hot it is outside and how well your home is cooling. What’s more, mPowered works all day, every day, while Cool Share kicks in only during peak use on the hottest summer days.

But as with Cool Share, mPowered pays participants to cut air-conditioning during peak use. Cool Share pays participants a flat 33 cents per hour, while mPowered pays based on what ratepayers actually saved. If things get a little too hot, participants can override the program and keep the air-conditioning on, or manually set their temperature where they want it.

Consumers who sign up for mPowered save an average of 10 percent to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs year-round , Brown said.

If you’re concerned about privacy and security, neither program lets NV Energy control the temperature in your house. And the company doesn’t know what temps you set. Data is stored in third-party servers, where it’s stripped of customer information and encrypted.

How does NV Energy benefit by getting people to use less power? Lower consumption means the company has to build fewer generating stations, and it can avoid expensive power purchases on wholesale markets to meet surging peak demand.

About 13,000 ratepayers have signed up for mPowered. Around 55,000 are on Cool Share, which is closed to new applicants. You can’t be on both programs, but you can upgrade from Cool Share to mPowered for $75 to $150, a fee that helps cover the cost of equipment .

To sign up for mPowered, you need to live in a single-family house. Brown said NV Energy expects to offer the program to small businesses and multifamily residents in the next 12 to 18 months.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison@reviewjournal
.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

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