Progress Energy may be giving me another encouragement to move Off Grid

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Today I got a letter in the mail from Progress Energy about their Energy Wise program where homeowners can voluntarily allow them to install equipment which would allow them to switch off some of our appliances (air conditioning/heater/water heater) during peak demand times. In exchange for this they are offering up to $75 yearly credit. The peak demand times vary by the appliance (heater/water heater was 6AM-9AM and a stretch in the evening 5PM-9PM I think) (air conditioning was about 1pm-6pm) Now, they say in the notice that it’s entirely voluntary and it would be switched off for 15 minutes at a time for no more than 4 hours. (This last part was not written clearly, does that mean no consecutive blocks of 15 minutes and the total would be no more than 4 hours, or is it possible that it could be consecutive blocks up to 4 hours(?)) I’m all for saving power. I’ve got a kill-a-watt meter and from time to time audit things around the house. We’ve tried to resist going to the air conditioning this year and last…. unplug the water heater when we’re away for long enough and really try to save where we can.

But, I don’t want to proverbially turn the keys over to the power company to switch things off when they think demand is too high. I’m sorry, that’s not their business. Their business is supply, I’ll take care of controlling my demand and if someone else doesn’t, then they’ll just have a high bill to pay won’t they?

Now, like I said, this is voluntary (for now) and there are limits on the peak hours they’ve defined. (And you can pick 2 calendar dates to opt out of the switching off and weekends aren’t covered….) I imagine the terms could easily change (and continued use means you agree to the changes just like with everything else these days.)

It kind of reminds me when Progress Energy wrote to us and gave us this great offer…. Our power bill ranged at that time from around 60 a month to 90 a month depending on the season and weather when we received an offer from them to never have a surprise in our power bill again by prorating our power bill we could pay the same amount every month. Their magic number that they had calculated for us was $92 a month for 12 months and then if it turned out our usage was different we could get an adjusted rate for the next 12 months (up or down). What was amazing to me is that their total was just a shade larger than our largest bill in the last 12 months had been….. nice racket in the power business isn’t it?

Well…. this has all had me thinking about the incentives to really go off grid. Who knows, at some point power companies may not make such things as shutting off your appliances in peak periods an option. It may sometime become a mandatory agreement. With all the power options these days for alternative energy, solar panels, geothermal heating, some people can take advantage of wind or microhydro power as well… it just makes me think that the massive power grids days may be numbered. I’d like to look at all the tax incentives and see if there’s any difference in claiming them if you’re connected to the grid or not, but the coming years may see an explosion in off-grid power installs!

Along these lines I saw that researchers at UC-Berkley I believe had come up with a material that could be as much as 10x cheaper than silicon for solarvoltaic panels. There are now several companies that are doing similar, cheaper approaches to photovoltaics I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing more of these become publicly available. (So far, one company I know of is/was under military contract and their products were not available for sale to the public.)

Oh… one other thought on progress energy’s energy wise program…. according to their Florida website they say most people that have joined say that they don’t even notice when the interruptions are. Personally…. I notice that “most people” aren’t home much during the day/evening…. I wonder if they polled people that work at/from home?